Facebook, SMS bill passes

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Parliament has passed a bill seeking to provide for the admissibility of electronic records as court evidence. The Electronic Records (Evidence) Bill passed yesterday, now provides for electronic records - such as those on social media such as Facebook and Twitter - to be admitted in court as evidence.

The Minister of Justice, Defence and Security Dikgakgamatso Seretse brought the bill to Parliament. Seretse said the bill would work hand in hand with the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act and the Evidence in Civil Proceedings Act, both of which provide for the admissibility of documentary evidence, but do so without making a specific provision for the admissibility of records by an electronic record system. Rules relating to the admissibility of general evidence will still apply to the admissibility of electronic records as evidence, the minister said. Current practice dictates that where evidence comes in the form of a document, either an original of the document or an authenticated copy of the original must be used, with the authentication done by an administrative officer.

In the case of electronic records, under the bill, electronic records have to have proof of the integrity of the electronic records system in which the record was recorded or stored. If it contains an electronic signature that was added when the electronic record was first generated, that can be used to verify that the electronic record has not been changed since that time.

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