By James de Villiers for Business Insider SA

Media law experts believe WhatsApp admins in SA may be held liable for false information shared on their groups.

However, they would need to know that the information being shared is false, and do nothing about it.

Knowingly sharing fake news is a crime subject to 6 months imprisonment under SA’s Covid-19 disaster regulations.

Administrators of WhatsApp groups in South Africa may be held criminally liable if fake news is shared in the group, but only if they are aware that the information being shared is incorrect.

Under South Africa’s coronavirus disaster regulations, spreading false information, colloquially known as fake news, about the novel coronavirus and Covid-19 with intent to deceive is a crime with up to 6 months imprisonment.

PPM Attorneys communications lawyer Lucien Pierce believes Whatsapp group administrators who were aware that false information is being shared may also be held liable.

Pierce said the disaster regulations, however, make it clear that the fake news has to be spread with malicious intent, and therefore the administrator will have to know that the information being shared is false.

“Many people, like my mom, share many things during the course of a day which is false but which they do not know is false, and they, therefore, cannot be found liable,” Pierce told Business Insider South Africa.

“The same is true for an administrator: they would have to know that the information being shared is false. If they do not correct the information, or do nothing to stop it, they can then be held liable.”

Von Seidels copyright lawyer Salomé le Roux explained that a precedent has been set in South Africa where a court held a person who was tagged in a defamatory Facebook post jointly liable for the defamation in the post.

She said the ruling meant that anyone who participates in the publication or is part of the “publication chain” of defamatory material – or, under the disaster regulations, spreading of fake news – can be held liable.

A WhatsApp administrator is deemed to part of the “publication chain” as they are deemed to have created the group and has control over who is added and what is posted there, Le Roux told Business Insider South Africa.

“If someone [therefore] posts something defamatory [or false] and the WhatsApp admin sees it and does nothing, it is the same as if he was tagged on a defamatory Facebook post, but did not remove the tag and remains associated with the post,” Le Roux said.

Webber Wentzel media law expert Dario Milo said it is highly unlikely that someone will be held liable as the intent to deceive needs to be proved.

“[Only] once an administrator has knowledge that someone has posted fake news, and does not act to remove it from the group, he or she will be at risk of contravening the [disaster] regulation,” Milo said.

Thousands affected as Google SA goes down

By Anita Froneman for CapeTown Etc

People across the country working from home during the coronavirus lockdown were affected as Google South Africa experienced technical issues on Monday, causing various applications including Gmail, Google Docs, Hangouts and Maps to be inaccessible.

“Our engineers have observed an intermittent issue accessing various Google apps including Gmail, Google Maps, etc. The issue is 3rd party (Google) related and is affecting various ISP’s in South Africa. Further updates to follow,” RSAWEB said on Twitter.

It was unsure at the time exactly what the problem was.

The issue was reported to the Google Network Operations Centre and they were investigating, according to MyBroadband. Internet Service Providers will be updated as they figure out the issue.

By James de Villiers for Business Insider SA

The North Korean connection in a brazen R300-million heist in Japan, which used stolen data from Standard Bank, has been confirmed in a new report.
The mastermind of the 2016 operation – which involved more than 100 people – fled to North Korea afterwards.
The group is believed to have used counterfeit credit cards stolen or leaked from Standard Bank to steal the money.

It has now been confirmed that the alleged mastermind behind a syndicate which stole 1.8 billion yen, or roughly R302 million at current exchange rates, in Japan by using data stolen from Standard Bank, fled to North Korea, the Japanese newswire Kyodo News reported this weekend.

In 2016, the man lead a group of people who used counterfeit credit cards stolen or leaked from Standard Bank to withdraw large amounts from convenience-store ATMs in 17 areas across the country, including Tokyo.

The Atlantic reported that more than 100 people were believed to have been involved in the operation which took place over two hours on 15 May 2016.

Around 1 700 automated teller machines at 1 600 convenience stores were targeted.

The mastermind fled to North Korea by way of China shortly after, investigators have now determined.

Last year, Nippon.com reported that United Nations Security Council panel found that North Korea may have been involved in the incident.

Standard Bank told Business Insider South Africa that they are unable to comment as investigations are ongoing, and directed enquiries to the relevant authorities.

Japanese police have been working with South African police during its investigations. It said over 260 people have been arrested in relation to the incident, the Japan Times reported.

By Hanno Labuschagne for MyBroadbrand

South Africans can now use Uber Eats to have essential goods delivered to their door during the coronavirus lockdown.

In an email sent to customers on Monday 6 April, the company said it would offer a range of essential items through its delivery platform.

“From frozen meals to toiletries, household goods to vitamins – open the Uber Eats app to get the items you need delivered to your door,” Uber said in a mail.

Products and stores available

Pharmacies are listed on the Uber Eats app, offering various medicines, baby products, dental products, deodorant, soaps, shampoo and conditioner, and female sanitary products.

Other stores include butcheries, convenience stores, and even health food restaurant Krunch.

The app also states that a R0 delivery charge is charged on orders of over R50.

Uber advised customers to keep checking the app as new stores are being added daily.

Just as was the case for food delivery several days before the lockdown started, users are able to request non-contact delivery of essential goods.

This means that the order will be left outside your door, eliminating the need for physical contact between the courier and customer.

Customers can select the “Leave at door” option at checkout and add additional instructions to indicate where the courier must drop the package.

Free deliveries and rides

Uber last week pledged to provide 10 million free rides and deliveries to essential workers and vulnerable people affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

The company said the services will be available to health care workers, the elderly, and others who require assistance. It said “any organisation, healthcare provider, or governmental entity is eligible”.

An Uber spokesperson confirmed to MyBroadband that it will be running the offer in South Africa as well.

“This is a global commitment that applies to all countries where Uber and/or Uber Eats operate. We don’t have a specific number for a specific country. We’re calling on food banks, hospitals and other organisations to reach out to us if they need support.”

Organisations seeking support with rides or food deliveries can contact Uber at impact2020@uber.com.

Vodacom slashes data prices by up to 40%

Source: Tech Financials

Vodacom has cut data prices by up to 40% and will provide free data to access essential services through Vodacom’s zero-rated platform ConnectU with immediate effect.

The value of these initiatives is some R2.7-billion over the next year.

Vodacom’s various 30-day data bundle prices will be cut across all of its channels by up to 40%, providing customers with even greater value and making it more affordable to connect.

30-day bundle size price reduction

  • 50MB R12 – cut by 40%
  • 150MB R29 – cut by 33%
  • 325MB R55 – cut by 33%
  • 500MB R79 – cut by 21%
  • 1GB R99 – cut by 34%
  • 3GB R229 – cut by 23%
  • 5GB R349 – cut by 14%
  • 10GB R469 – cut by 22%
  • 20GB R699 – cut by 31%

Jorge Mendes, Chief Officer of Vodacom’s Consumer Business Unit, says: “Vodacom can play a critical role in supporting society during this challenging time and we’re committed to doing whatever we can to help customers stay connected. Since we started our pricing transformation strategy three years ago, our customers have benefitted from significant reductions in data prices and the cost of voice calls. Over the same period, we invested over R26 billion in infrastructure and new technologies, so our customers enjoy wider 2G, 3G and 4G coverage and vastly increased data speeds.”

The latest data reductions will complement the discounted bundle offers that will also be made available to prepaid customers in more than 2,000 less affluent suburbs and villages around the country. For qualifying communities to access further discounted voice and data deals, they need to simply click on the scrolling ConnectU banner on the platform via connectu.vodacom.co.za

ConnectU – which is a zero-rated platform – also goes live today. It will provide content aimed at social development and offers a variety of essential services for free. Learners and students enrolled in schools and universities can access relevant information for free, with no data costs.

The ConnectU portal includes a search engine linked to open sources such as Wikipedia and Wiktionary as well as free access to job portals; free educational content on the e-School platform; free health and wellness information and free access to Facebook Flex, the low data alternative to Facebook that enables customers to stay socially connected.

Vodacom’s popular Just4You platform has been a significant contributor to the approximately 50% reduction in effective data prices over the past two years. Substantial cuts in out-of-bundle tariffs and the introduction of hourly, daily and weekly bundles with much lower effective prices have also driven increased value and affordability, resulting in R2 billion in savings for customers in 2019.

This latest announcement is part of Vodacom’s social contract with the public and has been extensively discussed and agreed with the Competition Commission.

“Today’s price cuts and free access to ConnectU will also assist South Africans during the national state of disaster while at the same time helping to drive greater digital inclusion,” concludes Mendes.

Important undersea cable breaks – again

By Stefan Mack for Briefly

The West African Cable System (WACS), an undersea Internet cable which is critical to South Africa’s communications infrastructure, has broken again.

The cable had broken earlier this year and resulted in a notable slowdown in SA’s internet speeds. A break has been reported in the cable, but it is not yet clear where the break is or if the damage is in the underwater part of the cable. The repairs would take longer and be more expensive underwater. If the break is on land it would be significantly easier and cheaper to repair.

The damage to the cable could leave some internet users without access, depending on the Internet Service Provider (ISP). Earlier this year, the same cable was damaged when pressure from a mudflow from the Congo River into the ocean.

Source: CNBC Africa

South African insurance company Discovery and mobile operator Vodacom are teaming up to offer a free, online doctor consultation service to all South Africans with coronavirus-related concerns.

Discovery had already set up an online service for its own customers but had put it on ice due to a regulatory hold-up. Now it will be open for anyone.

The R20-million ($1.11-million) cost of the first 100 000 consultations will be split between the two companies. Doctors sign up to the service voluntarily, with more than 5 000 registered so far.

Vodacom will also provide free access to the platform via mobile data, but only with a Vodacom sim card, meaning users will have to already be a customer or sign up to Vodacom to access the service.

Discovery CEO Adrian Gore said there was no financial benefit to the insurer from the partnership, and it would not receive a share in any revenues Vodacom earned from new customers.

He added that sources of funding would have to be explored if the number of consultations went above 100,000.

Gore also told Reuters that the company was modelling the potential impact the coronavirus will have on claims, with its businesses in South Africa and Britain a focus.

“Covid-19 claims are certainly going to go up and we’re modelling that, but the cost of other health events are going down quite dramatically, people are not going for elective surgery, so there’s a bit of a counter balance,” he said.

There was also a much higher risk of mortality claims too, he continued, adding the insurer was “preparing carefully” for this outcome.

By Nozipho Mngomezulu, Karl Blom and Jody Hardy at Webber Wentzel

In a move to counter “fake news”, all Internet sites ending with “.za” will have to include a visible link on their landing page to the Covid-19 South African Online Portal, in terms of a Government Gazette notice published by the minister of communications and digital technologies on 26 March 2020.

This applies to all websites operating under the .zaDNA top-level domain name, so it includes those ending with “co.za”, “org.za” and “ac.za”.

The requirement is contained in the Electronic Communications, Postal and Broadcasting Directions, under Regulation 10(8) of the regulations made under section 27(2) of the Disaster Management Act, 57 of 2002.

The purpose of this directive is to disseminate and facilitate the availability of accurate information about Covid-19.

The Covid-19 South African Online Portal contains statistics on the spread of the virus, information on symptoms and preventative tips, and official press releases and notices.

Although the directions came into force on the date of publication, they do not prescribe any penalties for non-compliance, or a deadline by when websites must be updated.

The portal to be displayed is found here.

SA jolted into a digital way of life overnight

On Sunday 15 March 2020, President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a National State of Disaster in relation to the novel coronavirus, and asked people and businesses across the country to take precautionary social distancing measures – working from home where able, increasing sanitary measures in shops and businesses, and asking those who were sick to self-isolate for 14 days.

The following Monday, on 23 March 2020, Ramaphosa announced a nation-wide lockdown, commencing at 23:59 on Thursday 26 March – an effort by the country to reduce the rapid spread of Covid-19.

As a result, businesses, service providers, shops and telecommunications companies across the nation have had to pivot quickly to embrace a new way of working and providing services.

Here are just a few of the changes we have seen and will see over the next 21 days:

  1. Spars in some areas are offering pack-and-deliver services – some Spar stores allow you to phone or e-mail ahead with an order, which you then are able to either collect curb-side or
  2. PnP is launching a drive-thru service – customers can e-mail your order to your local Pick n Pay store with a drive-thru service. Customers will receive a notice when their order is ready for collection. They can park a designated spot in the Pick n Pay shop’s parking lot. A Pick n Pay staff member will bring the groceries and load them into your car. Payment is made from within the car through a sanitised credit card machine. Items will be limited on a per-customer basis.
  3. Chemists are offering curb-side pick-up services – some chemists allow order-ahead and curb-side pick-up
  4. Some vets will be offering curb-side pick-up services
  5. Telecommunications providers are lowering the cost of selected data bundles, due to the recent Competition Commission ruling. However, this is sure to aid people working from home.
  6. DStv and SABC will be hosting free channels which will aid parents to teach their children from home
  7. DStv is offering a number of free channels: 100 – DStv; 180 – People’s Weather; 238 – SuperSport Play; 313 – PBS Kids; 320 – Channel O; 343 – TBN; 400 – BBC World News; 401 – CNN; 402 – Sky News; 403 – eNCA; 404 – SABC News; 406 – Newzroom Afrika; and 414 – Euronews Now.
  8. Many businesses across the country are conducting meetings and business as usual via a number of online videoconferencing platforms, including WhatsApp, Zoom, Facetime and Skype. They are also making use of productivity apps such as Slack and Trello.

SA sees spike in network attacks

According to Kaspersky, a major spike in network attacks took place in South Africa last week. Affected devices increased from 20,000-30,000 to about 310,000 in the period spanning from 15 – 21 March.

This has coincided with an increase in remote working in the country, after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced first a National State of Disaster and then a 21-day lockdown.

“Remote working provides cybercriminals a prime opportunity to target devices, especially those that don’t necessarily have adequate IT security measures in place,” Maher Yamout, senior security researcher for the Global Research and Analysis Team at Kaspersky, said in an interview with MyBroadband.

“Such a spike recorded, although temporary, leads us to believe that cybercriminals have keenly been focused on the region given the current circumstances.”

Protecting your networking during lockdown

Kaspersky provided a variety of tips employees should follow when working remotely during the impending lockdown:

  • Make use of a VPN to connect securely to the corporate network
  • Use multi-factor authentication wherever possible
  • Ensure all corporate devices – including mobiles, laptops and tablets are protected with adequate security software
  • Segregate your personal devices/life from corporate computers
  • Ensure the latest available updates are installed regularly
  • Only use corporate-approved teleconferencing software
  • Practice basic cybersecurity rules

 

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