Latest News2023-04-19T11:49:41+00:00


MMA Director: Reflections on Safer Internet Day 2018

Today is a really important day, and unlike other big political meetings, there will actually be some real outcomes. Safer Internet Day (SID) is a day that will grow in importance. Why? Because while many in the room today are digitally savvy, and while many if not most now have digital devices as extensions of ourselves, we haven’t really begun to understand the real impact this digital shift is having on every aspect of our lives. Yes, things are much easier and faster and more colourful but there are very real risks as well.  Some of them counter-intuitive. Convergence isn’t just a buzz word: it is a lived reality. Anyone who has a smartphone has internalized convergence – the merging of a variety of technologies into one device. You can message, watch videos, write, do your diary, keep up with the news, play games, be legal, be illegal, bully, be bullied, be inspired, and oh yes you can still do something called “make telephone calls”. Convergence isn’t just on our phones, it exists within them, within entities and programmers. Facebook doesn’t just know who our friends are and recommend more, or show us cool stuff, they are just about to launch ‘Classified’ so you can buy and sell. Google doesn’t just know what you searched, it can tell you when to leave for a meeting and help you choose what car to buy. Convergence has spread even further. Our digital reality has now brought just about everything and everyone together. We have the racists and rights activists, paedophiles and politicians, poets and pornographers, the serious and the silly, fascists and feminists, the fruitcakes and the finest minds, the awful and the amazing, the insipid and the inspiring, the corrupt and the champions of justice. The full spectrum from scum to mum. And we have all these increasing at a rate faster and more than we can begin to grasp. More than 400 hours of YouTube videos are uploaded EVERY minute and 1 billion Facebook posts every day!

This explosion of information means that in some sense we should, as Turkish Academic Zeynep Tufekci puts it be, “living in the golden age of freedom of expression”, where you can find anything, where all voices can be heard and opinions expressed.  This is true to a degree but already see that existing and emerging power dynamics mean that this isn’t the case. We have machines and algorithms deciding and filtering, but how do they do this and who decides? Those who shout louder, are more angry or emotional, gain more traction than the reasoned and considered. The extremists and fascists acquire an equivalence of voice beyond their support. Just look at the actions of Bell Pottinger. The question, of course, is how we choose to respond to this. We could opt out and simply ban the internet and the emerging digital reality, which is well and fine but we will lose out on the huge benefits it brings. This is why we are so thrilled today to be launching not only WebRangers with our brilliant, brilliant partners but also Media Transformers.

For us, our best response is to equip the public, children and young people in particular with the necessary skills to navigate our emerging digital reality. We have no idea where it is going, but we can give young people the skills to help ensure we realize the amazing democracy that our country has the promise and potential to become. In particular we focus on being critical, the ability to know how to find information, to be skeptical of what we consume, to behave online as we would like all to behave in our analogue world – with decency, respect for human rights and dignity – and to have fun and reach our potential along the way. But there is another critical set of skills that this year’s WebRangers and Media Transformers will be acquiring.  What the explosion of fake/dodgy news has shown is that with the explosion of sources of information it is absolutely critical that our young people know not only how to find information and exercise their digital rights in a safe environment online, but also that they know who to trust and where to find credible information. These skills, recognized by the visionaries and progressives in our education system are not just nice to have but increasingly will be essential than drivers licences!

It is highly likely that the young people in this room won’t need drivers licences in 15 years but they will need these skills. Without these skills, not only do we expose our children to the extreme risk those would seek to beguile and defile them but we also set them at a disadvantage to their digital development. This is why this day is so critical. But there is one final issue of convergence I need to stress. This is that convergence isn’t just our devices, programmes and information – it is also our approach. Media is no longer the exclusive preserve for those who produce it.  Our WebRangers this year will produce amazing videos of their own. Government is no longer the only big player in the room. We have tech companies who themselves are grappling with the same challenges, of how to weed out and combat hate speech, bullying and misinformation. These things matter and they matter profoundly.

This is why WebRangers works – because we have the relevant critical partners involved. We have the platforms like Google and Facebook, we have the operators like MTN, we have the experts like ourselves, PPM and Digital You and we have our democratically elected government partners like the FPB. So, this launch is about Safer Internet Day, about WebRangers and Media Transformers. It is also about taking clear, focused step towards building and protecting our democracy and freedom of expression. So, for all of those who you who will be doing it this year, know that not only will you learn new things and acquire new skills, you will also be playing your part in making our world a better place.

William Bird MMA Director

Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) and partners are proud to announce the successful launch of the 2018 Web Rangers Programme, on Safer Internet Day (SID), 06 February 2018.

The programme was launched in Cape Town and Johannesburg with both events bringing together civil society, children, educators, government and the private sector to promote online safety and positive use of the internet, in line with the 2018theme for SID. SID is an internationally celebrated day and therefore provided an opportunity for Web Rangers to share important lessons locally on online safety with hundreds of young people in other parts of the country who are not directly involved in the programme. Web Rangers is an international digital literacy programme implemented in various countries such as New Zealand, India and Kenya. The programme is designed to allow young people to gain critical skills and knowledge around online safety. These digital champions use their skills to make the world a better place through innovative campaigns that promote safe internet usage and champion their rights in the digital world. In South Africa, the initiative is led by MMA in South Africa together with local partners, Google SA, Facebook, the Film Publication Board (FPB), MTN, PPM Attorneys and Digital You. The activities for the day included messages from programme partners, industry experts and 2017 Web Rangers Ambassadors who shared their messages of online safety in line with Safer Internet Day. Erin McKay, from McAuley House, spoke during launch in Joburg said: “We as Web Rangers don’t actually go around rescuing people like “Superman” or “Ironman”, but what we do is teach people how to be safe online and by doing this we are able to help more people, than “Batman” ever could!”  Other selected schools were also invited to participate in an interschool digital literacy competition where learners played MMA’s Hashplay Board game, an edutainment game centred on online safety and general knowledge that allows participants to learn about safety while competing against each other. Since its inception in 2016, the programme has made successful gains with over 300 young people inducted into the programme, therefore reaching direct and indirect beneficiaries (conservatively calculated at 900 additional people) through the programme. During the launch, Web Rangers Programme coordinator, Phakamile Khumalo stated, “This year will see Web Rangers expanding on its successes by piloting the programme, specifically looking at recruiting from the Western Cape Integrated Community Access Network (I-CAN) centre. This will increase our reach to include an additional 50 learners in the Western Cape, as well maintaining our Gauteng intake of 200 learners.”

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