Critiques of the Cybercrime Bill

Dear Editor,
Cybersecurity is an essential element in a nation-state’s national security strategy. Cybersecurity impacts the lives of each citizen in everyday activities. The impact results from increased use and improved information and communication technology (ICT), and several international bodies recommend developing national cybersecurity strategies to protect ICT infrastructure.
Those recommendations include garnering Government support, implementing a legal framework, and considering the protection of civil liberties.
The Organization of American States (OAS) supports the need for Government support, and agrees with the above recommendations. The OAS partners with several countries in Latin America and the Caribbean to develop their legal framework and cybersecurity strategies. These developments are accomplished through a working group focused on Ministers and Attorneys-General of member countries. As a member, Guyana participates in developing a legal framework to combat cyber-crime and foster international cooperation.
In 2013, Guyana responded to an initial questionnaire for the Eighth Meeting of the Working Group on Cyber-Crime. The focus was on legislation, international corporation, national efforts, cybercrime prosecutions, and training. Guyana confirmed that it was a criminal act to intercept network communication and possess child pornography illegally. However, the country did not criminalise illegal access, data interference, system interference, device misuse, computer-related forgery, computer-related fraud, copyright infringements, and other applicable cybercrimes. At that time, the country did not prosecute any individual, and they stated that there were no difficulties with persecutions.
Guyana’s former APNU/AFC Government implemented The Cyber Crime Bill (2018), including all the questionnaire elements developed by the Working Group on Cyber-Crime. The elements reflected the consideration and work of the group in the context of a legal framework. Guyana extended this to include “Offenses of sedition” and “Using a computer system to coerce, harass, intimidate, among other such languages a person,” which questions the appropriateness of civil liberties’ protections. The decision to develop laws in response to external accountabilities augured well for the nation. However, the Government created an ethical dilemma for interpreting offences of sedition and using a computer to coerce.

Description of the Offences
The Cyber Crime Bill (2018) contains an article, Article 18 (1), that states a person commits sedition if they publish media that creates contempt towards the Government. This offence is supported by language that a person is guilty of using a computer to advocate a Government change or commit treason. The clause also includes language that offers protection to the President, Prime Minister, and Government Ministers from critique within the sovereign territory – digital borders. The law attempts to include individuals residing in and out of the country, and prescribes imprisonment for five years.
The Cyber Crime Bill (2018) contains another article, Article 19 (1), that states it is a crime to use a computer to coerce, humiliate, stalk, harass, among other such acts another person. The article includes language that it is criminal to publish vulgar, profane, and lewd media that creates emotional distress. The offence also includes using a computer system to extort, cause public ridicule, and hatred to a person or group. This offence includes a fine of five million dollars and imprisonment for three years.

The National Fact Pattern
Guyana is a multi-ethnic country with people sharing opposing political and different religious beliefs. Transparency Institute Guyana Inc. agrees with several elements of the Bill: cyberbullying, child porn, revenge porn, blackmail, and copyright infringement. However, there is an assault on the freedom of expression in Article 18 (1). The sedition language is very subjective, because the feelings of disloyalty towards the Government cannot be measured. The Betrayal Trauma Theory and how an affected individual perceives it highlight the problems of concluding an individual’s lived experience, “particularly in the face of social pressures.”
There is a similarity between Article 18 and Article 19. Although it is criminal to harass and intimidate an individual, there is a thin line between freedom of expression and the law’s subjectivity. In recent years, social media has provided a platform to express dissatisfaction against people, companies, and specific groups. The Government could use these articles to control dissident narratives. According to Transparency Institute Guyana Inc., there is no protection for an individual who makes a social media post with any provocative statement about the President. There are exceptions outlined in subsection four of the Bill that provides a restrictive structure for criticising the Government.

Resolution of the Issue
The sedition clause is an attempt to legislate uncommon respect for Government officials. The values of individualism versus collectivism, high versus low power distance, and high versus low uncertainty avoidance describe this misaligned norm. There are several doctrines for improving cybersecurity. These doctrines include prevention, risk management, and deterrence through accountability. In Guyana’s case, the Cyber Crime Bill (2018) also fails to prioritise the nation’s economic and security concerns. Further analysis demonstrates the debilitating conditions within which organisations such as the media operate in the country. Consequently, policy-makers must take an holistic approach and create a homogeneous environment for public-private partnerships, to promote economic growth and national security.

Areas of Improvement
The applicability of the Tallinn Manuals to South Africa’s national policies. The country attempts to address the issue of cyber-crime by developing similar cybercrime laws. However, Ramluckan (2019) identifies the criticisms of the Cybercrime Bill and the limited focus on national organisations and penalties for violations. Specifically, the inapplicability of the jus in bello and jus ad bellum to the country’s laws and progress in this domain. As a result, the narrow focus on misaligned concerns does not adequately secure the country.
The Working Group on Cybercrime focuses more on the international corporation, which member countries furnish into cybercrime laws. Guyana’s Cybercrime Bill conforms to the group’s intentions, but extends it to include articles that violate ethical principles such as civil liberty. National lawmakers miss the importance of cybersecurity strategies which support national laws through a uniform framework.
The Doctrine of Deterrence Through Accountability affects desired behaviour and considers accepted norms. For Guyana to foster a superior vision that is furnished based on national, international and sovereign cybersecurity needs, there must be a socio-technical systems’ approach to improving education, policy, and technology.
Cybersecurity is an essential element in a nation-state’s national security strategy because it impacts citizens’ lives in everyday activities. Guyana’s Cyber Crime Bill (2018) begins to address the cybersecurity challenges, such as cybercrime. However, the Bill includes articles that are not consistent with the intentions of the Working Group on Cybercrime and international norms. The Bill fails to address the importance of civil liberties as an element of national cybersecurity strategy; besides, it does not adequately address the myriad of challenges – present and future.

Thank you,
Dr Dustin Fraser