Tag: fake news

New WhatsApp feature to debunk fake news

By Marco Cocomello for Glitched

WhatsApp is releasing a new feature that lets users quickly search the contents of a viral message to fact-check for fake news. The company announced that starting today, a magnifying glass icon will appear next to messages that have been forwarded through a chain of more than five people. Tapping this icon searches the message’s contents online and will reveal any common conspiracy theories or fake information the message may hide.

WhatsApp claims this new search feature uses advanced algorithms to help debunk any fake news you may receive. The company shared an example of a message sent to users claiming that “drinking freshly boiled garlic water will cure COVID-19”. The magnifying glass search brings up three fact-checking websites which flag the claim as fake news.

If privacy is your concern then don’t worry. WhatsApp claims that the feature works by allowing users to upload the message via their browser. In addition, WhatsApp never sees the message itself. It is simply directed towards fact-checking sites. The search works the same way a private browsing session would.

The new WhatsApp fact-checking feature is rolling out today. It may take some time to arrive in SA. So far, the feature is available in Brazil, Italy, Ireland, Mexico, Spain, the UK and the US. Users need to update their app in order to make use of the new feature. Keep in mind that the magnifying icon will not appear unless that said text has been forwarded to more than five people.

This new feature is just another step Facebook is taking to prevent false information spreading through the app. Earlier this year, WhatsApp announced it would limit the number of people you can forward texts to. This was also to help stop the spread of fake news. It is unclear whether or not the change helped in any way.

By Brian Fung for CNN

President Donald Trump on Wednesday threatened to “strongly regulate” or even shut down social media platforms after Twitter applied a fact-check to two of his tweets this week.

Trump did not elaborate on what actions he could take. But the threat is Trump’s clearest expression of intent to use the power of government to target his perceived political enemies in the private sector — businesses that already enjoy wide latitude under the law to moderate their platforms as they see fit. And it raises the stakes for Twitter and Facebook as they grapple with Trump’s misleading claims about mail-in voting and his baseless insinuations that a cable TV news host had a hand in an aide’s death decades ago.

“Republicans feel that Social Media Platforms totally silence conservatives voices. We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen,” Trump tweeted Wednesday. He went on to accuse the tech industry of trying to interfere in the 2016 election, before repeating an unfounded claim about voter fraud stemming from mail-in ballots.

“We can’t let large scale Mail-In Ballots take root in our Country,” Trump tweeted. “It would be a free for all on cheating, forgery and the theft of Ballots. Whoever cheated the most would win. Likewise, Social Media. Clean up your act, NOW!!!!”

Facebook and Twitter declined to comment Wednesday.

Later Wednesday morning, Trump teased a “big action” regarding social media but declined to elaborate on what that could be.
Trump’s Twitter outburst followed an unprecedented decision by the platform on Tuesday evening to apply a fact-checking label to Trump’s content for the first time.

The label, which Twitter has designed to combat misinformation and unverified claims, linked to a curated page with links and
summaries of articles describing how Trump’s claims on mail-in ballots are unfounded.

Shortly after the labels were applied, Trump took to Twitter to claim the company “is interfering in the 2020 Presidential Election” and “stifling FREE SPEECH.” He added that he “will not allow it to happen!”

But Twitter’s fact-checking decision raised further questions about whether it would apply the same treatment to Trump’s misleading claims about Lori Klausutis, the aide to former Rep. Joe Scarborough, a prominent critic of Trump. In recent days, Trump has leveled unsubstantiated allegations at Scarborough suggesting he was responsible for Klausutis’s death. The claims have been undermined by the official autopsy, which found Klausutis had an undiagnosed heart condition. Klausutis’s husband, Timothy Klausutis, reiterated that in a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey last week, saying that Trump’s claims denigrated the memory of his wife for perceived political gain.

Twitter has told CNN Business that it will not be removing the tweets about Scarborough.

Long-standing complaints from conservatives

Trump and conservatives have long complained that tech platforms algorithmically censor right-wing voices. The claims derive from a perception that Silicon Valley’s largely left-leaning workforce has designed social media products to discriminate against conservatives, though the companies strongly deny the allegations.

Some executives, like Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, have sought to accommodate conservative voices by meeting with them privately, and even meeting with Trump himself.

Trump has previously suggested that the US government could take action against media he dislikes. Last year, the White House set up a website to solicit complaints from the public about tech companies’ perceived political bias, and Trump has called for an examination of NBC’s television license, even though it does not have one.

Earlier this month, Trump tweeted: “The Radical Left is in total command & control of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Google,” and promised, without specifics, that his administration would “remedy this illegal situation.” Following that tweet, The Wall Street Journal reported that Trump has considered establishing a White House commission to study allegations of conservative bias.

Privately, officials from the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission have expressed concerns about a prior proposal from the White House to appoint those agencies as direct regulators of political content on social media.
Meanwhile, major tech industry players remain under federal and state antitrust investigation. But antitrust probes tend to be highly technical and are usually limited to the impact of corporate conduct on competition in the marketplace.

David Vladeck, a Georgetown University law professor and former top FTC consumer protection official, said any government push to restrict how private platforms moderate their websites could raise First Amendment questions.
“This is just another example of Trump thinking that the Constitution makes him a king, but it doesn’t,” he said.

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.

Facebook adds local languages for fact-checking

Source: Punch

Facebook says it will fight fake news on its platform by using African languages such as Swahili, Senegal, Afrikaans, Zulu, Setswana, Sotho, Northern Sotho, Southern Ndebele, Yoruba and Igbo languages.

Kojo Boakye, Facebook’s Head of Public Policy, Africa, said in a statement on Wednesday in Lagos, that the two languages were in addition to the Hausa language, already supported by the platform.

Boakye said that Facebook was collaborating with Africa Check to add new local language support for several African languages as part of its Third-Party Fact-Checking programme.

He said that the programme would help to assess the accuracy of news on Facebook and reduce the spread of misinformation.

According to him, the programme was launched in 2018 across five countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, which included South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal and Cameroon.

“Facebook has partnered with Africa Check, Africa’s first independent fact-checking organisation, to expand its local language coverage across Nigeria (Yoruba and Igbo), adding to Hausa which was already supported.

“We have also expanded our local language coverage across Kenya (Swahili), Senegal (Wolof), as well as South Africa (Afrikaans, Zulu, Setswana, Sotho, Northern Sotho and Southern Ndebele).

“We continue to make significant investments in our efforts to fight the spread of false news on our platform, whilst building supportive, safe, informed and inclusive communities.

“Our third-party fact-checking programme is just one of many ways we are doing this, and with the expansion of local language coverage, this will help in further improving the quality of information people see on Facebook.

“We know there is still more to do, and we are committed to this,” Boakye said.

The Executive Director, Africa Check, Noko Makgato said that the organisation was delighted to be expanding the arsenal of the languages is covered in its work on Facebook’s third-party fact-checking programme.

Makgato said that in countries as linguistically diverse as Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya and Senegal, fact-checking in local languages was vital.

“Not only does it let us fact-check more content on Facebook, but it also means we will be reaching more people across Africa with verified, credible information,” he said.

By Jean le Roux for Fake News Exposed

Some of South Africa’s biggest banks, insurance companies and car manufacturers have been caught advertising on fake news websites.

A News24 investigation of three months has found that big brands like Absa, Coronation, Cell C, Capitec, Mercedes Benz, Takealot and OUTsurance, who spend millions of rands promoting and marketing the credibility and integrity of their brands, have indirectly contributed to the fake news industry by buying programmatic advertising that landed up on dodgy websites.

Some of these websites, like HINNews – a Nigeria-based site that publishes a mix of fabricated stories and real news – have run stories about EFF leader Julius Malema dying of listeriosis and a new kidnapping ring “ripping” unborn babies from their mothers.

As the world is grappling with the scourge of fake news in the wake of President Donald Trump’s election in the United States and the support he received from Russian-run fake news operations to target potential Republican voters, South Africa has not been spared from the phenomenon.

“At Africa Check, we’ve seen false news stories stoke retribution, cause panic and misinform people about their health, which can have deadly consequences. It’s a real shame that reputable news brands aid the existence of these outlets, even if inadvertently. The sooner this gap is plugged, the better for society,” says Anim van Wyk, chief editor at Africa Check.

Association by advertising

Ismail Jooma, Head of Strategy at VML South Africa told News24 the creators of disinformation and fake news use rhetoric as a tool to divide.

“‘Disinformation’ websites are the modern era’s galvaniser of marginalised rhetoric, more often than not these websites pursue an agenda of racism, sexism and intolerance. If we had to remove the lens of moral subjectivity, purveyors of fake news aim to disunite at the very least.

A number of fake news sites that specialise in publishing fabricated news about South Africa make money through selling programmatic advertising spots to Google and other service providers.

News24 is publishing the results of our investigation into this phenomenon, including a blacklist of fake news websites, on a dedicated website titled Fake News Exposed.

Websites like HINNews are among several similar sites known for their clickbait headlines and fabricated stories, which are either copied from other online news sources or made up from scratch. Their articles show a fondness for the macabre and racially charged stories and are often widely shared on social media.

Companies whose brands appeared on these websites say they were unaware that they were inadvertently funding fake news and have instead blamed Google for allowing these sites to operate.

Google enables programmatic advertising, which is based on users’ browsing patterns on the internet. Advertising agencies buy adverts on behalf of clients and Google allocates these ads through a platform called Google Adsense, that uses algorithms to place adverts on websites. Website owners are then paid by Google Adsense.

In countries like Macedonia, running fake news websites that publish fabricated stories have become a full-scale industry and source of revenue for unemployed youngsters.

Companies condemn disinformation

Capitec, one of the local brands who’s advertising was found on a fake news website, condemned the phenomenon through their spokesperson Charl Nel. This sentiment was echoed by representatives from OUTsurance and Coronation. The full responses of companies caught on fake news websites by News24 can be found here.

These companies say they were unaware that a part of their advertising spend was finding its way to the owners of fake news site, while Google removed HINNews from its advertising network on September 21 after receiving queries from News24.

Nel said it was difficult for the bank to ascertain which news sites are fake and that it targets a market based on its readership. “We utilise various software for delivery of programmatic ads which are globally recognised (and) which optimises and creates lists as a brand watch. Capitec and our advertising partners also review websites on a monthly basis, however, it is very hard to decipher which websites are not legitimate as we target based on users.”

Nel condemned the use of fake news but repeated that it is hard to determine which sites are real and which are fake. “We are working hard to ensure these sites are blacklisted.”

OUTsurance’s head of client relations, Natasha Kawulesar, also denied the insurer’s knowledge or support of adverts on fake news websites and said the fake news website where it advertised was part of the Google Display Network (GDN), Google’s network of Adsense-approved websites. Google bans pornography, illegal downloads and similar websites from the GDN.

“We do not have the knowledge or capability to handle this function [digital advertising] ourselves and currently rely on our media and technology partners to handle this on their side,” said Kawulesar. “We place our trust in the publishers and media partners we deal with. We also have service level agreements in place to protect our brand and reputation. We confirm once again that we do not condone fake news or misinformation in any way, form or scale.”

Thato Mntambo, Manager: Corporate Communications at Mercedes-Benz South Africa also told News24 that the placement of their adverts was in the hands of Google.

“The unintended consequence of the pervasiveness of GDN [Google Display Network] is the difficulty to monitor the number of websites where our advertisements are displayed. We are conscious of the potential of incorrect placements and ameliorate the effects thereof through continuous monitoring of keywords and, in some cases, blacklisting keywords.”

Coronation Fund Managers, responding through their representative Tanya Schreuder of Dentsu Aegis Network, told News24 that the website on which their branding was found formed part of Google’s GDN list of websites.

“Under no circumstances would the Dentsu Aegis Network, as custodians of our clients’ brands, consciously support sites which are illegal, undesirable or dubious in any form. We take brand safety incredibly seriously and on behalf of all of our clients we undertake every effort to ensure that any online inventory we deploy is legitimate and of a quality that is contextually suitable.”

Google’s response

Google declined to comment on HINNews’s listing on the Google Display Network.

A spokesperson said: “Our publisher policies govern where Google ads may be placed. We don’t comment on individual sites but we enforce these policies vigorously and regularly review sites to ensure compliance. We also encourage people to let us know when they see sites that they have concerns about that may be in violation of our policies.”

Crisis in trust revives faith in ink and paper

South Africa truly is the land of Chicken Licken – the fluffy little bird in the children’s story, not the purveyor of fiery wings at the local drive-thru.

Like the chick, South Africans are prone to jump to the worst conclusion in a crisis, of which there are plenty, and assume that this time the sky is indeed falling on our heads.

The notion of crisis, though, has some remarkably positive spin-offs.

A friend WhatsApped me the moment the lights went out during the packed official launch of Jacques Pauw’s The
President’s Keepers at Johannesburg’s Hyde Park shopping centre on Wednesday night: “Got to bit about State Security Agency. Electricity suddenly cut out so we could not hear Jacques. V suspicious.”

She and most in the audience assumed this was another ham-fisted censorship attempt. That’s what happens when there is a breakdown of trust in society. Nobody believes anyone anymore.

For now, though, heightened levels of cynicism are useful tools as South Africa looks for a more certain future at the ANC elective conference next month.

Horror writer Stephen King wrote recently: “It is the trust of the innocent that is the liar’s most useful tool.” He may have been referring to Donald Trump, but the sentiment fits here too.

South Africans have finally begun to lose their innocence courtesy of the flood of information on the criminal networks operating in the country. Those networks are haemorrhaging information. Whatever their motivation, whether to divert attention from their own activities or sow discord, South Africans can no longer claim to be ignorant of the issues.

Ironically, state capture is breathing life into an industry long feared on its knees. The nonfiction book trade, contrary to expectations when Amazon brought the Kindle to market, is booming. In an age of social media misinformation and the trust deficit that has produced globally, people are going back to reliable sources of information. The social media revolution, which 10 years ago was expected to enhance the quality of and access to information, has proved liable to being hijacked by agenda-laden vigilantes.

The saying “There is no honour among thieves” holds true. More and more, information is leaked by those fed up with how entrenched the rot has become or those hedging their bets in anticipation of the tide turning. The result is a breakdown in trust and reversion to print.

The written word somehow brings hope to a jaded public. Exclusive Books CEO Benjamin Trisk took delight this week in paying tribute to the SSA, which tried to force the withdrawal of the Pauw book with the subtlety of an amorous rhino.

Beyond the sordid detail is an unappreciated fact. Even the bad guys are worried about what might happen to them in the event of progressive political change.

Expect the noise levels to rise in the next few weeks as the ANC prepares to elect a new leadership. The stakes are high, and we probably haven’t yet seen the worst of the dirty tricks. There are massive vested interests at play. Either a venal elite gets to continue its plunder or we get a chance to redeem ourselves.

How do you tell the difference between fact and fiction? Ronald Reagan was succinct on the subject: “Trust, but verify.”

By Bruce Whitfield for Business Live

 

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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