CSA to prevent cybercrime and spread of false information

Published : 18 Sep 2023 08:04 PM

In today's interconnected world, the need for a robust Cyber Security Act is undeniable. With the proliferation of social media and the internet, the platforms designed for free expression have become breeding grounds for misinformation, cybercrimes, and the manipulation of information. While the principle of free press is fundamental to democracy, it should not be exploited to deceive or harm the public. The Cyber Security Act (CSA) is essential to combat the abuse of digital platforms and protect the integrity of information dissemination. It enables authorities to address cybercrimes, such as online harassment, cyberbullying, and the spread of false information that can have real-world consequences. By establishing legal boundaries and consequences for malicious online activities, the CSA seeks to strike a balance between preserving the ideals of free press and safeguarding the public against digital threats and manipulation.

The Digital Security Act (DSA) was enacted by the Government of Bangladesh in 2018 with the aim of addressing various digital and cybercrimes. However, over time, it faced widespread criticism from both domestic and international stakeholders. Critics argued that the DSA had been misused to suppress freedom of speech and expression, stifling dissent and curtailing online journalism. This led to concerns about the impact of the DSA on digital rights and privacy in Bangladesh.

In response to these criticisms and to address the need for a more balanced legal framework, the Government of Bangladesh repealed the Digital Security Act and introduced the Cyber Security Act (CSA). The CSA was designed to strike a better balance between national security and individual digital rights. It aimed to address the flaws and concerns associated with the DSA while providing a legal framework to combat cyber threats effectively and protect citizens' digital privacy and security. Despite these efforts, some individuals and groups continue to criticize the CSA, prompting a need to examine and counter their arguments.

Critics argue that the CSA threatens digital rights and freedom. However, the CSA has made significant strides in striking a balance between ensuring national security and protecting citizens' rights. It includes provisions for safeguarding critical infrastructure and preventing cybercrimes, without impeding legitimate online activities. Simultaneously, the duration of sentences in several sections has been shortened. In Section 21 and Section 28 of the Cyber Security Act, notable changes have been introduced in terms of penalties. 

The previous ten-year imprisonment term has been reduced to seven years in Section 21, while in Section 28, the penalty has been reduced from five years to two years. Additionally, Section 29, which pertains to defamation within the context of news coverage, has undergone a significant alteration. Instead of the previous three-year imprisonment stipulated in the DSA, the CSA does not include any imprisonment term; however, it imposes a maximum fine of TK 25 lakh, with a provision for three to six months' imprisonment in case of non-payment. 

Furthermore, the CSA has amended the sentencing lengths in Section 31 and Section 32, reducing them from seven years to five years and from fourteen years to seven years, respectively. Notably, one of the widely criticized features of the DSA was its classification of a broad range of offenses as cognizable and non-bailable. The CSA addresses this criticism by making some previously non-bailable offenses bailable, reducing penalties for certain offenses, increasing fines, and omitting the provision for additional punishment for repeated offenses. One of the key criticisms of the DSA was its infringement on individual privacy. The CSA addresses these concerns by incorporating robust data protection and privacy provisions, ensuring that citizens' personal information remains secure and their privacy respected.

The international community expressed concerns about the DSA's impact on free speech. In response, the CSA aligns more closely with international standards, fostering collaboration on cybersecurity matters and promoting a positive global image for Bangladesh. Critics argue that the CSA lacks clarity, potentially leading to misuse. However, the CSA provides clearer definitions of cybercrimes, reducing ambiguity. Moreover, it introduces measures to hold law enforcement agencies accountable, minimizing the risk of misuse.

With the rise in cyber threats globally, the CSA equips Bangladesh with a more robust legal framework to combat cybercrimes effectively. It empowers authorities to respond swiftly to threats, safeguarding both national security and citizens' digital well-being. The CSA promotes cybersecurity education and awareness programs, ensuring that citizens are informed about the risks and best practices in the digital realm. This proactive approach helps build a safer online environment. 

The CSA recognizes the rapidly evolving nature of technology and includes provisions for adapting to emerging threats. This flexibility ensures that the law remains relevant in an ever-changing digital landscape. 

Certainly, citizens have every right to express their concerns about the enactment of such laws. The potential for unequal application of the law raises valid apprehensions about the new legislation's impact on individual rights and freedoms. Therefore, in the context of the Cyber Security Act (CSA), the necessity of impartial application of the law cannot be overstated. The CSA must be implemented with utmost impartiality to ensure that it serves its intended purpose of safeguarding both national security and individual rights. The law should be applied without favoritism or bias, regardless of an individual's political affiliation, beliefs, or social status. This impartiality is crucial to build trust in the legal system and demonstrate that the CSA is a tool for protecting society as a whole, rather than a means to target specific groups or individuals. By upholding the principle of impartiality, the CSA can effectively address cyber threats while preserving the fundamental values of fairness and justice in Bangladesh's digital landscape

In conclusion, while some criticism is natural when introducing new legislation, the Cyber Security Act represents a positive step toward addressing the concerns raised by both citizens and the international community. It strikes a balance between safeguarding national security and upholding individual rights, ultimately working to create a safer and more secure digital environment for all in Bangladesh. As with any legislation, its effectiveness will be judged in practice, and adjustments can be made as necessary to ensure its success in the long run.

Dr. Pranab Kumar Panday is a Professor in the Department of Public Administration at the University of Rajshahi