Legal Response to Social Media Disinformation on National Level


  • Murdoch Watney University of Johannesburg



disinformation, misinformation


Social media has an enormous impact on the manner in which society communicates and shares information. Digital is no longer a supplementary channel, but is the first place most people go to for news, information and communication. The transmission of social media disinformation has increased dramatically across the world and it necessitates a response. The discussion focuses on the response to social media disinformation on a national level. The discussion does not focus on foreign state or state-sponsored actors of misinformation. The focus and publicity may - within the context of cybersecurity - predominantly have been on cyberattacks, such as ransomware attacks. However, recent incidents - unrelated to foreign state interference and cyberattacks - illustrate that cybersecurity law must encompass the threat of disinformation. The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 Washington, DC, United States, and South African as well as the 2023 Brazil riots illustrate the harmfulness of social media disinformation. Cognisance should be taken of the lessons learnt from the examples of social media disinformation as it may assist in determining a response to disinformation. There are various responses to national social media disinformation, such as legislative social media platform regulation, censorship, and criminalisation of the disinformation by itself. The response within the context of a cybersecurity threat landscape necessitates scrutiny as the response may impact on human rights. The trade-off between security and human right protection may be the violation of human rights to prevent harm from disinformation.