South Africa Sets Deadline for Websites to Remove Adult Content

Michael Hayes
PRETORIA, South Africa — The Film and Publications Board (FPB), which regulates the dissemination of media throughout South Africa, has said it will no longer allow website operators to distribute adult content online.

“Internet distributors of adult material have until Dec. 31 to discontinue the distribution of adult material on the Internet,” a spokesman for the FPB said. “Distribution of adult material on the Internet is in contravention with Section 24 of the Films and Publications Act.”

According to the FPB, which has administered the Act for some time, the decision to target online distribution of adult content comes in the wake of widespread public outcry.

“In view of a number of complaints from the public regarding the distribution and exhibition of materials containing depictions, descriptions or sequences of sexual conduct via the Internet, by mail-order and through mobile cellular phones, the Board advises the South African Police Services to investigate and charge any person using above-mentioned media for distribution of films, interactive computer games or publications, which have either not been classified by the Board or classified ‘XX’ or ‘X18’,” the spokesman said.

South Africa allows brick-and-mortar retailers wishing to distribute adult content to do so while still complying with the law, if they meet certain regulatory requirements such as limiting adult material to a clearly marked section of the store and posting notices denying entry to minors.

Storeowners also must apply for a license to sell adult material and pay a fee for the right.

A group called Adultlinks.co.za has organized an effort to determine how webmasters can avoid punishment and comply with the act.

“We have been in contact with FPB to establish how an adult site can comply with the act — and thus pay the prescribed fees and get a classification for a website,” a spokesman for Adultlinks said. “Reading between the lines we have learned that the FPB is not geared to apply a classification to a website.”

The law is designed solely to regulate retailers who operate in real space, with no mention at all of online commerce, according to Adultlinks

“All in all, the current situation reeks of old apartheid censorship, where government decides what you may or may not see,” the Adultlinks spokesman said. “I for one am not going to take this lying down.”