State Security Minister David Mahlobo reportedly said that the government is seriously considering undertaking the regulation of social media to combat the widespread problem of fake news.
According to Business Day and The Times on Monday, Mahlobo said that social media has become a host to negative and untrue opinions as opposed to providing opportunities for personal and business interaction. He reportedly made these comments during a media briefing by the justice, crime prevention and security cluster of ministers.
The media, judiciary and other institutions are being abused by domestic and foreign actors to undermine the government, the minister said. Mahlobo reportedly made reference to people who "run to court on political matters to undermine decisions taken by government". He said that these people were motivated by national and economic interests, and use collaborators, both knowing and unknowing. He reportedly said that issues such as education and unemployment have been showcased in the limelight of fake news.
Meanwhile, the Sunday Times reported that a document being prepared for discussion at the ANC's policy conference in June highlighted similar concerns.
The document reportedly says that civil society, opposition parties, the media and the judiciary, as well as students, are part of a plot by foreign actors to undermine the state.
It reportedly warns that foreign intelligence services are "mobilising the unsuspecting masses of this country to reject legally constituted structures and institutions in order to advance unconstitutional regime change".
Mahlobo reportedly told Parliament the same thing during a 2016 address.
Murrry Hunter spokesperson for the Right2Know campaign told the Times that although fake news is a serious concern, it would be a huge threat to media freedom if the state were to regulate social media. "This is what we have seen happening in Zimbabwe; this is what we have seen happening in Cameroon, Egypt, and other areas. When the governments lose control of their political powers, they clamp down on social media", he lamented to the Times.