On Thursday, the Film and Publication Board of South Africa (FPB) tweeted a hoax article that paedophilia would be recognised as a sexuality forming part of the queer community. It also tweeted an image of a “P” added into the commonly used LGBT, claiming that the P stood for pedosexual. According to an internet factchecking website, Snopes, this was an anti-queer smear campaign to link being queer to being a paedophile.
The fake news shared by the FPB sparked outrage on social media on Thursday night, with many saying it criminalised being queer and perpetuated queerphobia. On Friday morning, the FPB tweeted that it had been made aware that the tweet is a hoax and claimed that it does not associate being queer with paedophilia.
FPB has been alerted that the image posted earlier was a hoax and wishes to retract the tweet. FPB is in no way condoning paedophila and neither is it associating the LGBTIQ Community to paedophilia. FPB continues to support and work together with LGBTIQ.
— FPB (@FPB_ZA) December 8, 2017
The FPB is a government institution that regulates and imposes age restrictions on media and protects children from being exposed to pornography. However, in the past, the FPB has gone overboard with its policies, being accused of censorship. In 2015, the FPB drafted an online policy that could give it powers to assess and pre-classify every social media content and and take it down if the FPB deemed it unacceptable.The policy could be applicable to both commercial entities and ordinary South Africans with blogs or websites.
This policy was contested by the Interactive Advertising Bureau of South Africa, which said it had far reaching implications on the freedom of speech in South Africa and could delay consumers from receiving content because the policy required pre-classification.
Many South Africans still hold queerphobic views, despite the laws upholding the rights of this marginalised community. Tweets like these that spread misinformation about the LGBTQIA+ community, are potentially dangerous, especially in a country where people are killed for their sexuality.
Anim van Wyk, editor of fact checking website Africa Check said it was important for verified or reliable news sources to fact check their information before making it available for public consumption. “It is very regrettable when an official channel with a large platform and important standing fails to verify “news” they distribute,” she said. Van Wyk also said that it is important for for news sources to investigate what they publish. “The ‘About Us’ section of the website FPB linked to clearly shows that articles aren’t written by professionals. It states that anyone can get a chance to be a real reporter’. Let’s check before we share,” she added.
— Right2Know (@r2kcampaign) December 8, 2017
The FPB’s media spokesperson, Monala Bontolo, told The Daily Vox that the reason for the tweet was because the organisation was joining a conversation that was happening in the United States of America. “It is not a conversation that is happening in South Africa as yet,” she said. Bontolo said the reason why the FPB shared the article was to raise awareness on the issue of paedophilia. “As FPB our mandate is to protect children, and we are against paedophilia, because… It is a criminal offence to engage child pornography. So when we posted, it was to raise awareness that there is paedophilia out there,” she said.
Bontolo said that the organisation did not intend to perpetuate or enforce any sort of stigma against the LGBTQIA+ community. “That was not the intention. We would like to apologise if there is any negative perception that we caused, but that was not the intended perception,” she added. She would not comment on whether the person who posted the tweet would face any repercussions.