On the 18th of March 2020, , Media Monitoring Africa held a relaunch for the Real411 platform. Real411 was first launched in 2019 during the South African elections to allow members of the public to report disinformation, however during the elections it was discovered that not only people were reporting disinformation but also hate speech, incitement to violence and journalism harassment. Real 411 is a further development with new and expanded features.
Media Monitoring Africa Director William Bird took the live audience through the new Real411 platform and how the complaints system will work.
“The aim of the Real411 platform is to help combat disinformation around CoronaVirus, the platform is there to allow people to report Disinformation, Hate Speech and Incitement to Violence”.
A message from the Deputy Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies was shared at the launch, “Fake news in today’s world can be life threatening, if you see anything that can be dis-misinformation, hate speech, incitement and journalism harassment please report it on the Real411.org.za” said Pinky Kekana. Watch the message here
Judge Zak Jacoob who is an anti-apartheid activist and former acting Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa spoke about the negative and positive forces that make use of the media of the media. He further stated “negative forces have done this for a long time now and also apartheid Governance have done this to get the world to believe what they want them to believe even without use of digital media”. With the use of media for personal gain he also said that it is very important to control what’s on the media in order to prevent it from getting to the hands of negative forces as their aim to destroy lives.
Dario Milo, a Partner in the Dispute Resolution Practice at Webber Wentzel spoke about the impact of disinformation, he explained “Disinformation is basically a lie when you know that what you are saying is false, knowing that what you put out there in the media is a lie”. He further spoke about how government has done a sterling job on educating the country on the Corona Virus and this is a time when we all turn to trusted media to understand accurate media.
Prof Francois Venter, Divisional Head of Ezintsha at the University of the Witwatersrand spoke about how people will try to use the situation of Covid-19 to make money making scams and propaganda. He further stated “Differentiating between these various forms is quite hard, in some way I think theres a tiny silver lining , the pandemic is going to be reinforcing well sourced journalism and well sourced science going to the future”. Venter said we want to ensure that we have a single site of public messaging from NICD SA. Katy Katopodis, News Director at Newsroom Africa spoke about how CoronaVirus infects everyone, it doesn’t matter the nationality, race, age or colour. This was due to the false dis-misinformation that has been going on online on Covid-19 infecting a group of people. She further stated “We are encouraging all media and journalists to report responsibly on CoronaVirus”.
Avani Singh responded to a question from the live audience on how owners of social media platforms take responsibility of fake news. She said “I think that there’s a lot of pressure on them to act responsible but the initiatives taken are positive and they are engaging on daily basis to try to work out what’s best”. Prof Venter responded to a question on government banning doctors and Covid-19 experts from speaking directly to the media and wanting to be the only source of information. He said “The Government didn’t shut out anyone, it didn’t shut out the media but they shut down people speaking on behalf of the governance. They are trying to have certain sites to give public messaging”.
The event ended with an exciting announcement of the Spotters Network initiative which was presented by Nomshado Lubisi and Azola Dayile. “The Spotters Network is a network/community of people who are concerned about digital online offences and want to combat it. By joining the network they will help identify digital offences and submit complaints on the News Rover application”.
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