How to get harmful online content taken down in South Africa

  • South Africans are not immune to the dangers of the online world.
  • Organisations such as ISPA are available to help remove harmful or illegal content discovered by locals.
  • Take-down notices are the best way to get this content removed so long as it is hosted on an ISPA member’s website.

While the internet can be a wonderful place it can also be an alarming place with risks seemingly around every corner, especially for young people.

While there are laws surrounding the posting of harmful content online, the process of getting that content removed may not be clear to most South Africans.

“With access to information, comes the risk of learners being exposed to harmful content and equally harmful predators and cyberbullies,” explains chair at the Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA) Sasha Booth-Beharilal.

When it comes to cyberbullying, the chair advises that parents should teach their children not to retaliate or respond to online bullies but alert them to what they encounter. As parents the goal should then be to collect information and save it as evidence before immediately reporting the bullying to parents, schools or police if the bullying needs to be addressed by authorities.

“Crimes must be reported to the nearest SAPS station and alleged cybercrimes should be forwarded to the SAPS Cybercrime Division. In addition, any parent or person who suspects illegal online activity has a powerful tool in the form of ISPA’s Take-Down Notice (TDN) procedure,” advises the association.

A Take Down Notice can be sent to any ISPA member (of which there are many) which is unknowingly hosting harmful content.

The form that needs to be filled out here asks for a lot of information including your own. This information is important as it allows ISPA to keep you updated. It should be noted that if you are knowingly filing a false take-down request, you could be liable for the damages resulting from the wrongful take-down.

Among the information you will need to provide is the name of the ISPA member. To find this information you can use this free web hosting checker tool from Digital.

The full list of details you need are:

  • Your full name,
  • Your address,
  • Your telephone number,
  • Your email address (if you have one),
  • The name of the service provider against whom you are making the complaint,
  • A clear and unambiguous identification of the unlawful material or activity (for example, the URL of web page on which the material appears with optional screenshot),
  • A description of the right that you believe has been infringed by the material or activity concerned (for example, “my right to privacy is being infringed by the publication of my credit card number”),
  • The remedial action you wish the service provider to take (for example, “the credit card number should be removed”),
  • A statement that the information in your complaint is, to your knowledge, true and correct and that you are acting in good faith,
  • Your signature (either written or electronic).

ISPA claims to work through these requests rather quickly with 95 percent of all valid take-down notices resulting in the removal of content within 48 hours. Last year the association removed over 200 harmful or problematic websites from South Africa’s internet after receiving over 600 reports.

“You should get a response from ISPA within three working days. Should you not receieve some form of response to your notification within three working days, please contact complaints (at) or call ISPA. Once a service provider has responded to the notification, either by removing the content concerned, or by refusing to remove the content for some reason, you will receive a further notification from ISPA. (You may also receive correspondence directly from the service provider concerned.) Should you not receive this further notification within seven days of your original complaint, please contact complaints (at) or call ISPA at one of the phone numbers listed above,” ISPA explains.

It’s important to note that ISPA can only take action against it’s members. If for example you encounter unlawful or harmful content on the likes of Facebook or Twitter, ISPA can’t help there.

[Image – Draguth Leon from Pixabay]


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