KINGSTON, Oct. 14 (JIS): The Cybercrimes Act, which seeks to address computer specific offences, was passed in the House of Representatives on Tuesday (October 13) with two amendments.
The new Act will replace the 2010 legislation, and incorporates new offences such as computer-related fraud or forgery; the use of computers for malicious communication; and unauthorised disclosure of investigation.
It also addresses the use of the computer for malicious communication.
Minister of State in the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Hon. Julian Robinson, informed that the clause was included “because there is a new phenomenon called cyberbulling.”
“This is where persons wilfully send messages, which are designed to annoy, and harass. The data that is sent must be obscene or is menacing in nature. The person sending the data does so intending to cause or is reckless as to whether the sending of the data causes annoyance, inconvenience or distress,” he explained.
Opposition Spokesperson on Information Communications Technology (ICT),
Dr. Andrew Wheately, while welcoming the provision to address cyberbulling, said the clause could have the effect of inhibiting use of information communications technology (ICT).
“This section has the most far-reaching implications of this Act. The intention of this section is to no doubt reduce the incidence of cyberbullying, which we fully endorse. However, it seems to be completely oblivious to the level of sophistication of the layman technology user,” he said.
I am sure that members on both sides of this House will agree that this section cannot stand as is. It cannot be that a person who…. makes a mistake while sending an email, text message or other correspondence could be charged with a crime,” he argued further.
Mr. Robinson, in acknowledging the concerns, said Clause 9 Section 1 (b) is to be amended to state that a person commits an offence, if that person wilfully uses a computer to send to another person any data that is obscene or offensive.
“I want to assure persons, who may send a message and they think that simply sending a message, which might be a joke, that you will be caught here. That is not what this provision is meant to deal with,” Mr. Robinson said.
In closing the debate, Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining,
Hon. Phillip Paulwell, noted that offences under the Bill require an act and intent.
“We have been faithful to ensure that both aspects are provided for, so no innocent bystander will be caught by this. Nobody, who is engaged in doing ICT business, will be caught by this, as you must have intent to do some wrong and the onus is to establish that the intent has been proven,” Mr. Paulwell said.
The legislation will now be sent to the Senate for its approval.