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Facebook, Google, Twitter To Expose False Content Online

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Global tech firms in Australia unveiled a new code of practice Monday to curb the spread of disinformation online, following pressure from the government.

The lobbying group DIGI — representing Facebook, Google, Twitter, Microsoft, TikTok and Redbubble — committed under the code to a range of actions including labelling false content on their platforms, demoting fake content and prioritising credible sources of information.

They also agreed to suspend or disable offending and fake accounts, including “bots” that automatically disseminate information across their platforms.

The measures — which largely codify existing practices — are said to target paid and political advertising as well as content shared by users.

“All signatories commit to safeguards to protect Australians against harm from online disinformation and misinformation, and adopting a range of scalable measures that reduce its spread and visibility,” the group said in releasing the 29-page code.

The voluntary code was developed in response to an Australian government inquiry into the role of online platforms in the spread of misinformation and disinformation.

The problem became particularly acute during historic bushfires that swept the country in late 2019 and 2020 and during the covid-19 pandemic, when social media platforms were flooded with false information on the origins of the disease and efforts to curb its spread.

The government’s Communication and Media Authority (ACMA), which will oversee the code’s implementation, said Monday that in 2020 more than two-thirds of Australians expressed concern over the extent of online misinformation.

“False and misleading news and information online — like that spread through the 2020 bushfires and the Covid-19 pandemic — has the potential to cause serious harm to individuals, communities and society,” it said in a statement.

ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin welcomed the code as a “flexible and proportionate approach” to the risk of harm posed by misinformation.

Signatories agreed to report to the government on initial compliance with the code by the end of June, and then issue annual reports after that.

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher warned the tech firms Monday that the government would be “watching carefully” to ensure they follow through on the measures.

The conservative government’s pressure for online companies to act against misinformation coincided with a more controversial campaign to force the biggest of them — Facebook and Google — to pay for news content they show on their platforms.

Legislation governing those payments is expected to pass parliament this week.

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Tech

Cost Of Living In Kenya Shoots Up

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The cost of living in Kenya has gone up for the seventh consecutive month as prices of essential commodities rose at a time when most consumers are struggling.

According to local media reports, Year-on-year inflation or the overall rise in the prices of goods and services reached 5.78% last month compared to 5.69% in January.

Non-food and non-fuel inflation, remained largely in check, an indication that the increase in the prices of products has not been informed by increased demand but low supply of food and fuel.

The acceleration in the overall prices of goods and services was driven largely by cooking oil, sukuma wiki, cabbages, and mangoes, whose unit prices increased by 17.8%, 13.3 %, 9.1%and 8.69%respectively.

As a result, said the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), which compiled the report said the month-to-month food and non-alcoholic drinks’ index increased by 1.01% between January 2021 and February 2021.

“The food inflation was mainly attributed to an increase in prices of some food items which outweighed the decrease in prices of other foodstuffs,” said KNBS in a statement on Saturday.

Cooking oil registered the highest jump with a kilo retailing at Sh236.45 last month, compared to Sh200.7 in February 2020.

Beginning early last year, bad weather, low use of fertiliser and shortage of manpower triggered by social distance measures imposed by countries during the pandemic, depressed the production of palm oil in Asia, leading to the surge in prices of cooking oil in Kenya.

Crude palm oil is the main ingredient used in the manufacture of cooking oil in Kenya.

The scarcity in some of the items was compounded by a decrease in disposable income for Kenyans following the adverse effects of Covid-19, which saw them lose jobs.

Moreover, the tax relief measures that the government had given to Kenyans to cushion them against the negative effects of the pandemic have since been rolled back, making some of the products expensive for Kenyans.

However, during this period, prices of tomatoes decreased by an average of 24.1% with a kilo retailing at Sh97.40, down from Sh128.40 in February last year.

“Prices of lemons, mangoes and maize grain decreased by 5.64, 0.33 and 0.18%, respectively,” said KNBS.

Retail prices of kerosene and diesel also declined by 9.9% and 2.4% respectively.

“The housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels’ index, increased by 0.43% between January and February 2021. This was mainly attributed to an increase in the price of kerosene by 6.02% between January 2021 and February 2021.”

The cost of electricity, on the other hand, went down by 2.8%.

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Business

Vodacom, Mondia Launch Maternal Health Service In DRC

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Leading pan-African communications company Vodacom DRC (Vodacom.com), and Mondia (Mondia.com), a private mobile technology company driven by innovation, have rolled out the Mum & Baby maternal health service across the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Mum & Baby is a free-of-charge mobile health intervention service that provides Vodacom DRC subscribers with maternal, neonatal, and child health information designed to encourage good health practices amongst pregnant women, mothers, partners, and caregivers. Mondia creates Mum & Baby’s tailored content in the local language and includes expert articles, videos, and information-sharing SMS messages. 

Mum & Baby’s future enhancements in the DRC will provide interactive tools including a due-date calculator, an immunisation calendar, medication reminder, medication safety information, and other health tools and services. The service is available in French.

The Mum & Baby service provides positive socio-economic benefits in the geographies in which it operates. In a recent KPMG survey conducted to understand the impact of the Mum & Baby service:

  • Over 95% of respondents reported that they found the SMS messages received useful or very useful for learning new information about their own and their child/children’s health and wellbeing;
  • 98% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that they had taken actions to improve their child’s health as a result of the information provided through the Mum & Baby service; and
  • 98% of pregnant women and mothers surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that they had taken actions to improve their own health as a result of the information provided through the Mum & Baby service.

Dr. Amadeo Rahmann, Mondia’s Group CEO, said of the partnership, that  “accessing healthcare services in Africa can be challenging, and Mum & Baby provides a free and convenient way of accessing instant expert advice where it is most needed. The Mum & Baby service leverages Mondia’s extensive networks and expertise in content production and curation, and we expect it to continue to deliver positive social impact wherever it is rolled out.”

“Ensuring healthy lives and promoting wellbeing for all ages is one of the United Nations (UN)17 Sustainable Development Goals, with the attainment of this goal, especially as it relates to infant health, having been threatened by the burden of COVID-19 on African healthcare systems. According to the World Health Organization, each year around 300 000 African babies die on the day of their birth, most often as a result of inadequate educational maternal and neonatal care.

Initiatives that put the power of good health directly in people’s hands are more important than ever”, Dr. Rahmann concluded.

“Mum & Baby has become our flagship health and wellness brand focusing on motherhood. We are proud of the way in which it contributes to our vision of building communities, bringing health solutions to more lives, and promoting good health outcomes” said Vodacom DRC’s spokesperson.           

Launched in South Africa in 2017, the Mum & Baby service had 1.2 million registered subscribers as of August 2018. The next rollout of the service will take place across Lesotho later this month.

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Business

Jeff Bezos’s Legacy, According To Experts

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In a few months, Jeff Bezos will step down as CEO of the sprawling empire that he founded nearly 27 years ago, taking on the role of executive chairman.

Amazon is the fourth most valuable US company, as of this writing, the second-largest US employer, and has had the second best performance of any stock since going public in 1997. More than any other company, it has taught the world to buy things online.

The Quartz is conducting an inquiry into how the world will remember the Bezos era. Tech analyst Ben Thompson has called him “arguably the greatest CEO in tech history,” and the financial data backs that up. Harvard Business Review’s CEO rankings put Bezos first in financial performance among S&P 1200 executives every year from 2014 to 2019. (The magazine did not publish a ranking in 2020.) But when it added social and environmental performance to its ranking in 2015, Bezos fell from first to 87th.

That drop points to the difficulty of assessing Bezos’s legacy, at least so far. Should we remember him as a customer-obsessed founder? A long-term thinker and an internet visionary? A 21st-century robber baron? A union buster? Is he an enabler of small businesses or their archenemy? What should we make of his role as the owner of The Washington Post or his commitment to furthering space travel?

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