The Lower House of Barbados' parliament passed the Law Revision and Law Reform Bill, 2018 Tuesday which seeks to regulate the use of social media in the country and limit what people can say in postings on social media.
Led by the leader of the opposition Joseph Atherley, the law not only seeks to combat defamation but also to fight defamation via social media platforms.
Atherley said, “Barbados needs legislation to regulate the use of social media” because people in Barbados are being defamed by means of social media.
“People in Barbados are every day defamed by means of social media. I dread the day when my day comes, but I believe inevitably it will. … That is a reality with which we have to deal and defamation laws must be made appropriately applicable to the new tech environment; else people will say what they will about people, damage their reputations, destroy their families, interfere with their career progress and all kinds of stuff,” he stated.
The Home Affairs Minister Edmund Hinkson argued that the bill allows Barbados to “evolve with the world” and that it should have been passed years ago.
Atherley also argued that the new law will help counter cyber crimes which need to be properly addressed as they can make a company lose business. Atherley recalled an anecdote in which a merchant complained that he had been hacked, resulting in him losing an entire day of business. Cyber crimes can also result in electoral fraud which should be a matter of concern for the country’s officials.
Cyber crime, including the use of social media to threaten, cause harm and distress or spread obscene material, is currently regulated by the Computer Misuse Act of 2005.
In recent times, various countries in the world have been looking to regulate the use of social media by citizens and to surveil what is being posted, which rights activists say is an infringement on the right of freedom of speech.
The U.K. government added itself to a long list of countries trying to regulate social media use when the telecommunications regulator Ofcom recently issued a report discussing the issues around online harm and potential ways forward.
A U.K. government white paper on the subject is also expected in near future, and Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced at the Conservative Party conference that he would direct the U.K.’s chief medical officer to draw up guidelines about social media use among children and teenagers amid growing concerns over potential harm.