Top cop calls for laws to tackle spread of false info on social media

Top cop calls for laws to tackle spread of false info on social media

With the rise of persons using social media to spread misinformation, Police Commissioner, Major General Antony Anderson, says there is now a need for special laws relative to offences such as digital public mischief to be crafted.

“We’re witnessing a growing trend where individuals exploit social media to create fear, spread chaos and disorder,” declared Anderson at a police press briefing on Tuesday.

While noting that the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) has benefitted from its various social media campaigns aimed at gaining information on wanted men and seizing illegal firearms, the top law enforcer said “It (social media) is increasingly becoming an enabler for ill-intention persons to spread misinformation and disinformation.”

He pointed to an incident in early June where a man used the video-sharing app, TikTok, to record a video issuing a bomb threat at a gas station in Ocho Rios, St Ann.

The incident, said Anderson, caused significant deployment of law enforcement resources. 

“Economic activities were significantly impacted, as roadways and businesses were closed down to facilitate evacuation effort,” the commissioner reminded, adding that the individual eventually confessed that it was a prank. 

The 25-year-old perpetrator pleaded guilty to creating public mischief and malicious communication under the Cyber Crimes Act, Anderson informed. The convict is yet to be sentenced. 

The commissioner said the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) also faces challenges where content is created to mislead police investigators during specific probes, while persons modify disturbing videos from other jurisdictions to appear as if it is carried out in Jamaica. 

In both instances, Anderson lamented how such situations cause fear both locally and overseas. 

“As the digital environment evolves, we’re increasingly seeing the need for some specific legislation that defines new offences within the context of social media, artificial intelligence, deep fakes and wider use of the cyber space,” said Anderson.

“These offences would range from digital public mischief, to more serious and damaging violations,” he added.

In the meantime, Anderson urged the public to act responsibly in their use of the digital space. 

“Another point is that while persons share information with us via tweets and other means, which we appreciate, it is important that victims of crime and witnesses make an official report as well, in order to have the matter properly resolved,” he advised.

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