Tag: fake news

Absa takes a beating from fake news

From the propagation of Bell Pottinger’s white monopoly capital narrative to the new public protector’s CIEX report, political mischief and fake news have been tough on all the country’s banks — but Absa has taken the hardest beating.

According to the findings of the 2017 South African Banking sentiment index, compiled by BrandsEye, consumers were mostly disgruntled by the controversy around the bank’s purchase of Bankorp, demanding that it pay back the money the Reserve Bank had used to bail out the ailing apartheid-era bank.

The analysis, based on a sample of more than 1.8 million social media posts from about 500 000 unique authors between September 2016 and August this year, showed Absa was the worst performer with a net sentiment of -24.5%.

The posts were distributed to a proprietary crowd of vetted and trained local language speakers before being coded and verified by multiple crowd members, who assessed the sentiments of the posts.

Capitec had the highest net sentiment with 13.5%, followed by Nedbank with a score of -5.8%, Standard Bank with -6% and FNB with -7.6%.

Absa’s score had dropped from -11.3% in 2016, with 32.2% of its negative sentiment attributed to the release of public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s report on the Bankorp saga.

Mkhwebane had recommended that Absa pay back R1.125-billion, but Absa maintained that it had met its duties relating to its purchase of Bankorp.

In July 2017 it launched a high court application for the review and setting aside of Mkhwebane’s findings and remedial action, but the damage to Absa’s reputation appears to have been done by then.

Jeremy Sampson, founder of Interbrand and veteran brand specialist, said Absa had fallen victim to a white monopoly capital agenda pushed by the defunct PR firm to the Gupta family, Bell Pottinger.

“The whole Bankorp thing from 20-odd years ago doesn’t seem to go away. I think Absa would argue that it was raised again [this year] by people who are being mischievous,” he said.

The Bankorp issue had been used as ammunition against the bank by people seeking to be “divisive” and “sow dissent”, Sampson said.

“Certainly there is a lot of mischievousness going on at the moment and it’s made that much easier because of social media,” he said.

Patrice Rassou, head of equities at Sanlam Investment Management, said few people properly understood the Bankorp matter but many were willing to drag Absa’s name through the mud online over it.

“For very political reasons the whole thing has been amplified on the internet and people have taken this at face value. It’s not a South African issue, it’s a global issue of fake news,” he said.

“You just have to have one tweet on something and people take it as fact when these things are firstly contentious, unproven and in a court of law [the accuser] is likely to lose.”

Rassou said corporates such as Absa were not equipped to rebut the “guerrilla warfare” seen online in which “the enemy is faceless”.

Overall the banking sentiment index did not find that banks had suffered negative sentiment driven by other matters related to the Guptas, but that consumers were more concerned with good governance than they had been in previous years.

“South Africans are holding their banks to higher standards now. If banks make a claim, and fail to match it, customers will call them out on this,” said Tania Benade, head of analytics at BrandsEye.

But Absa also received many negative complaints when it came to its services, such as the turnaround time on receiving credit cards and its R120 credit card replacement fee.

Absa had 15.6% more complaints related to branches than to online banking.

Included in the sentiment index was the net experience effect metric, which takes the net promoter scores of the banks, based on the likelihood of customers and non-customers to recommend a particular bank to others, to quantify the impact of customer experience on brand opinion. Capitec’s net experience effect exceeded those of the other banks, followed by FNB, Nedbank, Standard Bank and Absa.

Customer experience specialist and researcher Julia Ahlfeldt said that most consumers were unhappy with the basic “hygiene factors”, such as in-branch experience, app bugs and call-centre waiting periods.

“Most of the banks put time and energy into promotions and loyalty programmes but were unable to live up to their brand promise.

“Every time they do that it chips away at people’s perceptions of the brand.”

Ahlfeldt said that the average net promoter score for the industry in the US exceeded that of South Africa’s five retail banks, with the US being a highly competitive market.

But Rassou said that globally, perceptions around banks had always taken a negative slant, with banking services viewed as a grudge purchase by consumers. “Absa was seen as the leader in retail banking if you go back about 10 years ago but has lost a lot of market share to a number of other players, not just Capitec,” he said.
Barclays Africa, which owns Absa, had seen its share price drop 4.06% in the sentiment index’s review period, while Capitec’s grew by 22.78%.

“I think in the case of Absa, they’ve really suffered in terms of very low risk appetite. Absa has got the lowest market share in unsecured lending, which has been the big area of growth,” Rassou said.

Adrian Cloete, a PSG Wealth portfolio manager, said the valuations investors were prepared to pay when they traded in a company’s shares could indicate investor sentiment.

Based on this metric, “market participants are more optimistic about Standard Bank’s and [FNB owner] FirstRand’s future prospects,” he said.

Absa declined to comment without seeing the full index.

Source: 4-Traders

Hackers, trolls and other tech nightmares of 2017

Remember last year, when Samsung Galaxy Note 7 devices were blowing up in people’s pockets, on nightstands and even on a commercial airplane?

That seemed like a tech nightmare for the ages. Turns out that was nothing compared to what’s happened in 2017 — so far.

No, the terminators haven’t come for us yet, though Saudi Arabia did just grant citizenship to a robot named Sophia that literally said it would kill human beings. But it still feels like we’re in some weird alternate dimension filled with a steady stream of shocking revelations, from massive government hacking programs to troll armies ruining people’s lives to the Russian government using Facebook and Twitter to interfere in last year’s presidential election.

Don’t bother pinching yourself. It’s all real. Here’s a quick recap of the year’s most gruesome tech tales.

Nonstop hacking
You’d think mega-corporations with everything to lose from a massive hack would do anything they could to prevent attacks. Think again.

Equifax, the data collection company that has your financial information whether you want it to or not, announced in September that more than 140 million people’s information had been compromised. That includes names, addresses, Social Security numbers, bank info and so on.

Worse, it turned out that Equifax knew about the hack for weeks before telling us. And when it did, the company set up a terrible website, filled with security problems like poor passwords. And, ultimately, the site itself was also hacked.

If you think these were well-meaning mistakes and not selfish blundering, keep in mind that two high-level Equifax executives sold stock just before the announcement.

It’s no wonder Equifax CEO Richard Smith suddenly retired. But don’t worry, he made out with a pay package worth as much as $90 million.

Yahoo, already synonymous with embarrassing cybersecurity failures after revelations in 2016 that the accounts of 1 billion users had been compromised, saw Equifax’s screw-up and said: We can top that.

Yahoo’s new owner, Verizon, admitted earlier this month that the attack was even worse than we thought. It turns out every single one of the 3 billion accounts in Yahoo’s system had been compromised. All of them.

That cackling you hear? That’s former CEO Marissa Mayer, who still got her golden parachute worth more than $23 million.

Oh, and if that’s not enough to keep you up at night, we learned from a cache of documents leaked from the Central Intelligence Agency that, among other things, the government could be using our TVs to spy on us. That’s right out of the plot of George Orwell’s dystopian classic, “1984.”

Trolls taking over
Internet trolls have been having one of their best years, and politicians have finally taken notice.

Congress is summoning Google, Twitter and Facebook to Capitol Hill to talk about how their online services were used by the Russian government to interfere in the US presidential election. The meetup is starting on Halloween and continues Wednesday. Do you have your Thriller popcorn yet?

The specter of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election has forced the once-high flying tech industry back to Earth. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has faced repeated questions after he initially dismissed concerns about Russian meddling. Twitter, meanwhile, last week began banning ads from Russian-linked sites.

Did we all dance a collective time warp back to the days of the cold war?

Unfortunately, Russia isn’t the tech industry’s only problem.

Nonstop vicious and all-encompassing online harassment was another theme this year, due in some part to the troll armies that supported Donald Trump during his rise to the presidency. Twitter has declined to have its CEO, Jack Dorsey, answer even basic questions to reporters about the service’s handling of harassment among its 330 million tweeters, leading to additional pressure for the company to meaningfully change its policies.

Fake news
What, you thought we were done talking about trolls?

Maybe the most depressing part of 2017 was how much of it we spent debating what facts even are. With some people calling real stories fake and fake conspiracies real, the tech industry has been under increasing pressure to solve the problem.

And right, these companies should. After nearly a year of nonstop drumbeat debate and promises to better weed out hoax stories, the computer programs that highlight “news” on Facebook, Twitter and Google failed during the October shootings in Las Vegas. Trolls published tweets purporting to be the shooter or missing persons even as hoax stories and irresponsibly reported pieces that misidentified the shooter were prominently displayed on Google and Facebook.

So far, Facebook and a few others have promised changes, like beefing up the teams of people who monitor bad behavior on their services. They’ve also vowed to more carefully monitor ads so they don’t give a platform to misleading info.

It’s all enough to keep me quaking in my boots until 2018.

It can’t get any worse. Right?

By Ian Sherr for CNet

Are you a victim of fake POPI news?

Since the Information Regulator South Africa – IRSA – came into office in December 2016, the pace has been picking up in the market for Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) products and services.

This has had a spill-over effect on the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA), which also forms part of the responsibilities of the IRSA.

Unfortunately not only has the pace picked up but there has been some confusion sown through what might best be described as questionable marketing practices and erroneous reporting. One contact of mine recently received an email which included the following statement “The Promulgation of POPI, (The Protection Of Personal Information Act) in the Gazette on 26 November 2013 now means you are required to update your PAIA Manual to incorporate the POPI.”

This is misleading, since the Government Gazette did not include the commencement of the POPI Act or even the commencement of the transition period. The same marketing email continued with the statement “ALL information users now must have strict chain-of-custody processes in place.” This is far from the case, as the POPI Act makes no reference to a “strict chain-of-custody”. In similar vein the email stated “Businesses or persons who use/hold/verify or even request your Personal Information MUST now conform to the Act.” Not true.

This will only be so under certain conditions once the POPIA transition period has ended and right now it has not even started.

The same email then offers to help with the appointment of a “Compliance Officer”. No such individual is mentioned or required in terms of either POPIA or PAIA. What is required is an Information Officer, possibly supported by one or more deputies depending on the needs of each organisation. In September the IRSA issued a set of draft regulations which included specific reference to the role and duties of the Information Officer, more about which is available at the IRSA web site.

Perhaps of greatest concern is the statement that “at (name withheld) we made it very easy for you to get compliant in a simple and completely tax deductible manner. It takes you about 10 minutes to complete this process on our website.” Given the duties outlined in the IRSA draft regulations this statement should at least be seen as misleading.

This and other marketing emails that I have seen also push organisations to create or update a manual to comply with PAIA. In truth there are numerous exemptions to that requirement. To check whether you need to publish a PAIA manual please refer to the notice that appeared in the Government Gazette on 11 December 2015, signed by the then Minister of Justice and Correctional Services. For a free copy of the notice visit www.gpwonline.co.za and search for edition 39504.

Not only commercial organisations are guilty of mis-stating the facts. The Star newspaper ran an article in the Saturday Star Personal Finance column during September 2017 which contained the statement “The 12-month grace period to comply with the PoPI Act has expired, and the legislation is being applied in the public and private sectors.” That is factually incorrect and I wrote to the author of the article twice in an attempt to have this incorrect statement corrected.

One of my letters (in part) appeared in the Personal Finance column on Saturday 30 September 2017 under the heading “Incorrect correction about PoPI Act”. The explanation of the true state of affairs was published along with an apology to me personally from the editor.

I repeat those contents below for completeness:
“On September 23 2017 on page 21 in the Personal Finance section an item appeared titled “Correction to article on PoPI Act”. Unfortunately the correction itself is incorrect. To state that the “12 month grace period for market compliance is now in force” is factually incorrect. The only sections of the PoPI Act that have commenced refer to the definitions of the Act and those provisions allowing the establishment of the Information Regulator South Africa (IRSA). These appeared in the Government Gazette in April 2014.”

In summary, be sure you are dealing with reputable sources when seeking advice on how and when to comply with new legislation in general and POPIA and PAIA in particular.

By Dr Peter Tobin

Top tips for spotting fake news

Recent events in both South Africa and abroad have highlighted the problem of the spreading of false information disguised as news.

These fake news stories can cause a lot of damage to the reputations of people and companies alike, whilst diverting attention from more relevant news items.

University of KwaZulu-Natal media expert Professor Jean-Phillipe Wade said the inventing and sharing of such stories is merely “an ego boost”.

Wade called for a massive increase in media and literary studies to be taught at schools as “often people are genuinely taken with these stories and share them without consultation”. “With social media there is no requirement for editorial gate-keeping. Rumours spread far and wide and there’s no way of stopping it but we need to educate people on how to identify what is verified news,” Wade said.

He drew attention to politicians using fake news to boost their image and their political agenda.

Wade said internationally and nationally, politicians often spread fake news to “cover up their tracks”. He mentioned President Donald Trump and President Jacob Zuma as both using false information to justify their decisions or bolster their campaigns.

Reports that South African football star Benni McCarthy committed suicide in London also surfaced this week and journalists from legitimate newsrooms scrambled to track McCarthy down, who squashed the fake reports.

A social media post claiming that 250 cats, dogs, birds, hamsters and horses in the Germiston and Bedfordview SPCA kennels would be euthanised was also circulated this week.

Chairperson of the Gauteng-based SPCA Elroy Parkinson said that as a result of the false information, their phone lines, e-mail and social media channels were flooded by concerned supporters, making it difficult for staff to respond to everyone.

A NUMBER of media experts around the world have published lists and tips on how to spot fake news. Here are some that relate to South Africa:

• Look to see if reputable news sites are also reporting on the story;

• Check for odd-looking domain names;

• Check the “About Us” tab on websites or look up the website on snopes.com for more information about the source;

• Watch out for common news websites that end in “.com.co” as they are often fake versions of real news sources;

• Bad web design and use of all caps can also be a sign that the source you’re looking at should be verified;

• If the story makes you really angry it’s probably a good idea to keep reading about the topic via other sources to make sure the story you read wasn’t purposefully trying to make you angry in order to generate shares and advertising revenue.

By Kailene Pillay and Alet Janse van Rensburg for News24

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