Minister in the Presidency, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, has challenged tech conglomerate Meta to deal with misinformation and called for fair treatment when dealing with developed and developing countries.
Speaking at the Meta for Government engagement on Wednesday, the Minister decried Meta’s platforms that are still flooded with fake news and misinformation.
The engagement was in partnership with the Presidency and Government Communication and Information System (GCIS), and Meta, the parent company of Facebook.
“Anybody can be a journalist because of the ability of social media to be able to communicate and share information instantly.”
The Minister also posed a question to Meta about the perception that accounts of African leaders seem to be easily hacked.
The challenge, according to the Minister, is for both parties to put systems in place to deal with security concerns.
“When that information goes out there sometimes you have accounts that are not verified and then spread fake news.
“The challenge I want to pose to Meta is why do African leaders and leaders in developing countries, in general, have accounts on your platforms that can be hacked, duplicated and used for scams as where leaders from the US or China [have a] single account.
“I’m still yet to explain to my President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa why there is a fake Cyril Ramaphosa account when he’s the only Cyril Ramaphosa in the world,” she told attendees.
She described the situation as an injustice.
“Other leaders aren’t treated the same and therefore fake news can be used through their platforms that are fake and there’s no recourse on it.
“I’ve also been dealing with a scam that says I’m providing 5GB of free data in the country and people take it seriously and later suffer greater losses,” the Minister said.
She is of the strong view that the tech giant needs to address these issues for the partnership to be more meaningful.
“How do we deal with fake news if it is not tackled fast enough?”
As the country gears up for national elections next year, Ntshavheni said the government needed to engage with various platforms to convey a genuine government message without fear of fake news.
Meanwhile, the Minister called on Meta to pay African content creators the same as their counterparts across the globe.
She believes these conversations are necessary to build a relationship between the state and Meta.
“That partnership can only be meaningful and work if we play fair with each other and treat each other as equals. Your ability to make sure that your platforms contribute determines your legacy in the world,” she stressed.
Meta said it was constantly beefing up its processes to fight fake news and misinformation across its platforms, especially on Facebook.
Narratives about SA
Meanwhile, in his address at the gathering, Presidential Spokesperson Vincent Magwenya said although there are negative narratives about South Africa, the country has many positive stories to tell.
“In every space where we see hopelessness, people who are thousands of miles away look at this information and they see South Africa as a mouth-watering investment destination.
“Why can we not package that story and share that story with the country?
“It does not mean we won’t be criticised. It doesn’t mean that we will be sweeping under the carpet the nature of the challenges we have as a country. It just says we are a growing democracy that is very well aware of its challenges and we are hard at work to resolve those challenges and we are positively engaged with all our stakeholders as a nation,” he said.
He told communicators at the gathering that transparent, two-way communication directly with citizens is imperative in building trust and partnerships with the nation.
“The real people that need to hear from us; it’s very powerful to engage people directly, face to face. Allow them to ask questions.
“We cannot rely on the media to do our work for us. We need to be out there with fellow officials that have the technical capacity and understanding of our various portfolios engaging these audiences,” Magwenya said.