You may have heard Patricia de Lille speaking out on MXit and Blogging over the last few days. Well she was on 702/Cape Talk radio last night. I tuned in towards the tail end of the conversation. Dave Duarte, a blogger, stepped in to defend freedom of expression with blogging. I called in to make the listeners aware of the Parents Guide to MXit. And more importantly about the importance of education. One thing that you as a user should demand is that your service provider, whether cellphone, mobile or Internet based does more to educate the public at large.

The banks in South Africa, for example, have been suffering from increasing attacks of what is called phishing. They have posted some notices on their websites but I have seen little else in the form of reassuring the public. MXit has since responded to Patricia de Lille’s outrages request to have blogging and MXit regulated.

It is extremely difficult to regulate blogging because it’s on the Internet or rather the World Wide Web. As Herman Heunis, CEO of MXit Lifestyle said in his response to de Lille, even China with it’s massive investment in online censorship with firewalls, proxys and filters, cannot prevent all their citizens from speaking out. They successfully block a large portion but users or the community will always find a way to make it’s voice heard.

So what is your response to this as parents, citizens or some other stakeholder. My advice is that you apply more pressure on government to make basic computer literacy compulsory for all teachers, learners, civil servants. That is a good starting point. Next you can request from your ISP or favourite website that they support this online safety action campaign. All they have to do is start by putting a link to this website. They can also publish safety tips which I will gladly source for them to ensure it’s appropriate to their audience.

 
  • Online safety is an important thing, but I feel it’s far more a case of educating people than imposing regulation – which is infeasible. Anonymity is the one thing which actually provides internet safety.

    The fact that someone was silly enough to ruin their *own* life by means of MXit is simply indicative of how new these technologies are to South Africa, as well as the excellent job MXit have done in it’s penetration. Scary stories will happen, but let them rather be a lesson to us all.

     
  • I am in two minds about the MXIT saga. I own a mobile community (mavchat.mobi) where people chat dayly and we (thankfully) haven’t yet had the problems they have had.

    But with the recent incidents of kidnapping of members of MXIT members by other characters leads us to think maybe it should be regulated.

    Then we look at MXITs circumstances (if you can call it that):
    1. User logs are cleared when the user logs off. Which makes sense if you take into account the amount of active users they have daily.
    2. There is nobody in authority there who enforces the rules. Eg. One rule, their lawyer mentioned in his spin on SABC3 last week sunday, of not giving out your personal details. If nobody checks that the rules are followed, who’s going to follow the rules? A child dont think about pedophiles when their on these sites they are just making friends.

    Now the big question:
    How do you know the person registering for using these sites/applications are who they say they are. Do yo force them to send a certified copy of their ID to the Administrator of such a site… and then stand a chance of becoming a victim of identity theft if you register on the wrong site.

    Email verification is an old system to identify users, in a way, but there are many services that give you a free email adress like Gmail, Hotmail, MSN, gala.net.

    SMS verification? Starter packs can be picked up for 99c at your local Pick ‘n Pay making them disposable and still an unreliable form of identifying users.

    IP? South African celular networks use dynamic IP’s thus many people use the same IP’s.

    At MavChat.Mobi users are identified by a combination of the IP adress and the phone browser being used and thats not even very reliable.

    If you ask them how we are to be sure a person online is realy who they say they are I believe their response will probably be:
    ” I don’t know. You are the web developer you figure it out.”

    Should they implement this and make it law, I will not change anything in the registration process untill they tell me a foolproof way to know who is on the other side of that phone.