THE CYBERCRIME bill has the potential to criminalise software users and lead to a suppression of free speech, said Trinidad and Tobago Computer Society director Jacqueline Morris.
She was speaking yesterday as the Joint Select Committee (JSC) on the Cybercrime Bill met with representatives of the Computer Society in Parliament.
Morris said the bill was generally well crafted but it could lead to the criminalisation of people in the ICT sector depending on the software tool they were using for work and they may be afraid to use certain tools.
JSC chairman Faris Al-Rawi said the software would have to be used in a way that was in contravention of the act. She also said it could lead to suppression of free speech as well as affect journalists carrying out their duties.
She said there was an urgent need for complementary whistle-blower or journalistic protection. “Citizens have rights on both sides.
There is a right for the media to let them know what was going on. They also have a right not to have their information illegally accessed.”
Computer Society secretary Dev Anand Teelucksingh said the media was not protected as an entity that a whistle-blower could make a disclosure to under the current whistle-blower legislation before Parliament.
Al-Rawi asked what Teelucksingh considered the media to be and Teelucksingh responded a first step could be those recognised by the Media Association of Trinidad and Tobago (MATT) and the Trinidad and Tobago Publishers and Broadcasters Association (TTPBA).
JSC member Paul Richards said as a media practitioner it was not the intention to trample the rights of the media and the rights of both media workers and citizens had to be protected. He questioned what constituted a journalist and said both MATT and TTPBA had presented different definitions.
Morris also expressed concern about the handling of data and ensuring third parties were not negatively affected.
On the clause calling for hyperlinks to be blocked she said that it was not going to work and asked why it was put in the law.
“I don’t see any way of putting genies back inside bottles technically.”
Earlier in the sitting the JSC met with FLOW Vice President Technology Kurleigh Prescod, He said he saw the bill was a positive step in the right direction.
He expressed concern, however, about a clause asking internet service providers to remove access to a hyperlink with illegal content and said FLOW would have to restrict access to an entire site such as Facebook or YouTube.
“Which would be very disruptive.” He also reported that FLOW has about 45 to 55 per cent of the local market.
Al-Rawi pointed out that FLOW, unlike other groups that had sent submissions, had called for stiffer penalties.