Meaning of Computer Misuse Act

Thursday February 14 2019



A man browses the Internet.   File photo

A man browses the Internet. File photo 

The National Information Technology Authority, Uganda (NITA-U) has had sight of the story in the Daily Monitor of February 5. The story said Uganda Law Society petitioned the Constitutional Court seeking the declaration of two sections of the Computer Misuse Act No.2 of 2011 null and void. As the Authority responsible for the coordination, supervision and monitoring the utilisation of information technology in public and private sectors, we provide the following guidance to the public.
Section 24 - Cyber harassment. The Computer Misuse Act creates the offence of cyber harassment, which is the use of a computer in making obscene or indecent requests or threatening to inflict injury to any person or their property. The anonymity and ease of communication provided by the Internet make cyberspace the ideal roaming ground for people who wish to harass others. Prior to this legislation, a victim of such harassment could only find limited protection in the right to privacy guaranteed under the Constitution, the offences of threatening violence, and criminal libel under the Penal Code Act, Chapter 120 and defamation and private nuisance, under tort law. These were, however, limited in scope, for instance, a key ingredient of defamation is publication to a third party. Therefore, it would be ineffective in a scenario where the harasser only communicates directly with the victim without publishing the words to a third party. Therefore, Section 24 provides broad protection to the individual from obscene and lascivious communication and from threats.
Section 25, Offensive communication of the Computer Misuse Act prohibits the willful and repeated use of electronic communication to disturb the peace, quiet or privacy of any person with no purpose of legitimate communication. This provision is rooted in the right to privacy guaranteed under the Constitution. The offence of “offensive communication” was introduced in the Computer Misuse Act to restrict or veto “hecklers” in online environments who have no legitimate purpose for their communication. If such offences are removed from the Act, such behaviour will go on untamed considering the increase of electronic communication in Uganda.
NITA-U urges the public to use online platforms responsibly to promote communication and e-transactions and to be aware that there exists legal consequences for the misuse of such platforms. The Computer Misuse Act is one of the three Cyber laws that were enacted by Parliament in 2011 to protect the online community. The law is based on international best practices such as the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime. Therefore, this law is not unique to Uganda since similar laws are existent worldwide in other countries.
Uganda was recently ranked as the most secure cyberspace in Africa in the Global National Cyber Security Index. This is a global index, which measures preparedness of countries to prevent cyber threats and manage cyber incidents. It is owing to the robust legislation, such as the Computer Misuse Act, that Uganda continues to get global recognition.
NITA-U commits to ensuring that citizens can have peace of mind as they go about their digital transactions.
Steven Kirenga,
Kampala

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