South Africa weighs social media measures to fight fake news

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – South Africa's state security minister said Sunday, March 5, the government is considering a move to regulate social media in an effort to curb the proliferation of what he described as "false" information.

"The false narrative in the social media, it's one of the challenges that South Africa faces," David Mahlobo said at a press conference in Pretoria.

Mahlobo acknowledged that such a move would likely draw a wave of criticism and fears of stifling human rights, but added that "even the best democracies ... regulate" social media.

"Regulation is the way to go," the 45-year-old minister said, adding that the planned measures would also go after misleading photoshopped images. "We will actually be discussing how do we regulate it."

South Africa's move to curb the spread of misinformation comes amid efforts by Facebook, Google, and a group of international media to stymie the spread of fake news.

Facebook announced in mid-January it was introducing new measures to take down "unambiguously wrong reports" being shared on the social media platform.

Google said in late January it took down 1.7 billion ads last year as part of its fight against "bad ads, sites, and scammers" that tricked people, and Google, by pretending to offer real news but instead took people to promotional pages.   

The South African parliament has also for the past two years been considering a bill that would criminalize cyber-facilitated offenses.

South Africa is ranked among some of the freest media environments on the continent. –