By Adriana Noble
At its most basic level, cybercrime encompasses carrying out illegal activities by way of the internet or electronic devices. Victims of cybercrime are often the subjects of violations in the form of hacking, identity theft, fraud, and even revelation of personal information, messages and images, etc. Across the world, countries continue to face issues of cybercrime, especially with the growth of different social media platforms. Amongst these countries, Belize too has seen the growth of cybercrime. As a result, the Government found it pertinent to develop the Cybercrime Bill, which later led to the development of the Cybercrime Act, 2020 which came into effect on September 25, 2020. The primary function of the Act is to protect Belizean citizens and hold the primary perpetrators of cybercrime accountable.
The law is an interesting development as it outlines cybercrime offences and penalties. Part II of the Act entitled ‘Cybercrime Offences’ outlines all the acts that are prohibited or considered illegal subject to sections 3 to 18 of the Act.
So, for example, persons found accessing computer systems without authorisation are subject to a fine and imprisonment. Likewise, persons who input, damage, or modify computer databases of other persons are also subject to similar penalties. The Act even goes further to cover identity theft allowing for perpetrators to be punished if they use the identity of other persons or use computer systems to gain access to another persons’ identity. It is important to note that, from the law discussed, all these offences punish perpetrators by way of a fine and imprisonment.
Taking the law at face value, sections 11 and 12 appear to be the most needed developments. This is because, in Belize, there has been a growing number of complaints as many adults and minors have been the subject of personal violations on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. However, prior to the Act, there was nothing that could be done to hold perpetrators accountable as it was not per se illegal to; for example, post nude photographs or videos of adults or children on social media. However, this has now changed with the Act.
In the Act, section 11, entitled “Child luring” was specifically developed to deal with the exploitation of minors. Under this section, a person commits an offence if he uses a computer to get the child to engage in a sexual conversation or sexual activity, encourage the child to make child pornography, or even arranges a meeting with the child irrespective of whether the meeting was effected. If any of these activities are carried out, then the person is subject to pay a fine and serve jailtime.
Additionally, the law holds persons accountable for publishing images of other persons’ “private area” without their consent. “Private area” includes a male or females’ reproductive organs, buttocks or breasts. So that, if a person captures, stores and publishes an image of a persons’ private area on any social media platform like Facebook, then he or she will be subject to pay a fine and serve jailtime based on section 12 of the Act.
Altogether, the law is a neat development. It is one that clearly aims to reduce the negative effects of technology and social media. It is a law that Belizeans should be especially appreciative of when one considers how technology has posed a threat to our society as individuals continue to manipulate its prime purpose.
By Adriana Noble