The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Education, Technology, Culture and Youth, yesterday started scrutinising a new draft law on cybercrimes, which seeks to bring more details on the kind of crimes that can be committed using the internet and their penalties.
Cybercrimes are criminal activities carried out by means of computers or the Internet and officials say that the crimes are on the rise in Rwanda as a result of latest advancements in the area of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs).
The Minister for Information, Communication and Technology, Jean de Dieu Rurangirwa, told the lawmakers at yesterday’s session that the current law on ICT was not detailed enough to provide penalties for emerging cybercrimes.
“Given the current advancements in technology we are afraid that certain crimes may happen while we have no laws to regulate them and we have to be prepared and that’s why we need a specific law that covers a lot of things in the area,” he said.
The proposed law under scrutiny includes penalties against cybercrimes which were taken from the country’s Penal Code that is under review, those penal provisions found in the current ICT law, as well as new provisions that will be introduced to tighten the grip on cybercrimes.
Among the new provisions in the bill include penalties against fraudulent use of a digital signature and cyber-squatting, which is a practice of registering names, especially well-known company or brand names, as Internet domains, in the hope of reselling them at a profit.
Among others, new provisions also include penalties against identity related crimes such as using any means of identification of another person with the intent to commit unlawful activities, as well as spamming, which is the act of sending unsolicited and unfriendly bulk electronic messages by use of emails, instant messaging, blogs, online advertisement, mobile telephone or other means of electronic communication.
The minister said that the proposed law has looked at specific offences in the IT sector and has sought to be as detailed as possible.
“The law gives details that will help in the investigation and penalisation of crimes committed using technology (ICTs),” he said.
At yesterday’s session, several MPs scrutinised the proposed law and gauged its responses on a number of current internet related malpractices, with many of the legislators recommending that the law and the government’s law enforcement mechanisms be more effective in deterring the crimes.
“How is the new law going to prevent the spread of rumours on WhatsApp?” wondered MP Edda Mukabagwiza.
She also suggested that the proposed specific law against cybercrimes be discussed along with the review of the existing ICT law to ensure that there are no duplications.
“We need to look at the current ICT law and identify whether there are new provisions in the cybercrime law that weren’t already indicated in the ICT law,” she said.
MP Veneranda Nyirahirwa expressed her concern over the increasing inability to protect children against offensive content such as pornography and other indecencies.
“What are we going to do to make mechanisms against publication of indecent information effective?” she wondered.
She also suggested that the cybercrimes and their penalties be incorporated in the current ICT law instead of initiating a new law.
The legislators will continue their analysis of the bill on Wednesday and that’s when they are expected to examine the draft law article by article and suggest their inputs before the draft law is tabled back in the plenary session of the Lower Chamber of Parliament for enactment.