With the recent DA deal, Facebook and Twitter were abuzz with the public commenting and keeping an eye on the updates as the announcement was made, writes JP KLOPPERS, CEO of BrandsEye.
But what does the freedom of expression provided by these platfoms offer to those in political positions making these decisions, and how can these insights positively impact decisions going forward?
BrandsEye, a leading online monitoring and insights company, closely followed the story as it broke across the web, including social media, and the company has catalogued public sentiment on the seemingly controversial political move.
Most social activity was confined to the realms of Facebook and Twitter with both platforms showing a noted increase in followers and topical conversation. The DA’s Facebook page saw a dramatic increase of 1 670 ‚’likes’, and their Twitter page (@DA_News) also increased by 415 followers. Agang’s pages reflected similar growth with the Facebook page up by 285 ‚’likes’ and their Tweets (@AgangSA) up by 172 members.
JP Kloppers, CEO of BrandsEye says, ‚”As objective observers we noted that these conversations and growth trends revealed that the public wanted to keep up with the latest updates on this announcement. Though Agang, is no longer an independent party, it also indicates the public’s interest in the party’s future.
‚”At the time, our research revealed that of the 7 148 contributors and the 9 973 online mentions relating to the #togetherforchange hashtag, a mix of opinionated responses were generated. Worked out at an average of just 1.4 mentions per person, the story’s broad appeal ensured politically minded South Africans eagerly voiced their concerns and observations online.‚”
Even though the majority of conversation took place on Twitter (69.1%), it was Facebook (26%) which released the in-depth sentiment of those both for and against the merger. Kloppers says, ‚”Simply put, Twitter’s character limit does not allow for greater revelation of emotion and rational responses. Many followers are feeling betrayed by Mamphela Ramphela’s actions while others view the move as a progressive step in the evolution of South Africa’s democracy.
‚”Twitter was not without its showstoppers. Concise and sometimes biting comments such as Gwede Mantashe’s ‚”rent-a-black‚” response to the announcement saw Gavin Davis, the DA’s Communications Director, retweeted 30 times when he retaliated. The report also revealed that race featured as a heated topic, but also showed people’s willingness to thoughtfully address the issue of race and move beyond it as a bone of contention.‚”
Ironically, despite the serious nature of the news, the retweeter of the day went to local and international comedic success, Trevor Noah who tweeted: ‚”And in other news Bafana Bafana join England to help them win the world cup.‚” which was retweeted 506 times.
Kloppers says, ‚”While not particularly significant to South Africa’s political landscape, in just two tweets, Noah the online author with the highest following to speak about the DA and Agang merge, created 730 engagements (reshares and replies), 2 347 906 opportunities-to-see (OTS) and an advert value equivalent (AVE) of R528 294,00. This provides clear insight into the fact that online influencers might not have the most lengthy and prestigious political careers but they do carry heavy clout with everyday people.‚”
The question arising, then, is: with all this insight into the opinions of South Africans, how will this information be used to make decisions going forward for all political parties, and how will the population’s response to this latest announcement correspond to the national elections around the corner? We’ll have to wait and see‚Ä¶ or listen. Online.
Prepare for deepfake impact
Is the world as we know it ready for the real impact of deepfake? CAREY VAN VLAANDEREN, CEO at ESET SA, digs deeper
Deepfake technology is rapidly becoming easier and quicker to create and it’s opening a door into a new form of cybercrime. Although it’s still mostly seen as relatively harmful or even humorous, this craze could take a more sinister turn in the future and be at the heart of political scandals, cybercrime, or even unimaginable concepts involving fake videos. And it won’t be just public figures that bear the brunt.
A deepfake is the technique of human-image synthesis based on artificial intelligence to create fake content either from scratch or using existing video designed to replicate the look and sound of a real human. Such videos can look incredibly real and currently many of these videos involve celebrities or public figures saying something outrageous or untrue.
New research shows a huge increase in the creation of deepfake videos, with the number online almost doubling in the last nine months alone. Deepfakes are increasing in quality at a swift rate, too. This video showing Bill Hader morphing effortlessly between Tom Cruise and Seth Rogan is just one example of how authentic these videos are looking, as well as sounding. If you search YouTube for the term ‘deepfake’ it will make you realise we are viewing the tip of the iceberg as to what is to come.
In fact, we have already seen deepfake technology used for fraud, where a deepfaked voice was reportedly used to scam a CEO out of a large sum of cash. It is believed the CEO of an unnamed UK firm thought he was on the phone to his boss and followed the orders to immediately transfer €220,000 (roughly US$244,000) to a Hungarian supplier’s bank account. If it was this easy to influence someone by just asking them to do it over the phone, then surely we will need better security in place to mitigate this threat.
Fooling the naked eye
We have also seen apps making DeepNudes where apps were able to turn any clothed person into a topless photo in seconds. Although, luckily, this particular app has now been taken offline, what if this comes back in another form with a vengeance and is able to create convincingly authentic-looking video?
There is also evidence that the production of these videos is becoming a lucrative business especially in the pornography industry. The BBC says “96% of these videos are of female celebrities having their likenesses swapped into sexually explicit videos – without their knowledge or consent”.
A recent Californian bill has taken a leap of faith and made it illegal to create a pornographic deepfake of someone without their consent with a penalty of up to $150,000. But chances are that no legislation will be enough to deter some people from fabricating the videos.
To be sure, an article from The Economist discusses that in order to make a convincing enough deepfake you would need a serious amount of video footage and/or voice recordings in order to make even a short deepfake clip.
Having said that, In the not-too-distant future, it may be entirely possible to take just a few short Instagram stories to create a deepfake that is believed by the majority of their followers online or by anyone else who knows them. We may see some unimaginable videos appearing of people closer to home – the boss, our colleagues, our peers, our family. Additionally, deepfakes may also be used for bullying in schools, the office or even further afield.
Furthermore, cybercriminals will definitely use such technology to spearphish victims. Deepfakes keep getting cheaper to create and become near-impossible to detect with the human eye alone. As a result, alt that fakery could very easily muddy the water between fact and fiction, which in turn could force us to not trust anything – even when presented with what our senses are telling us to believe.
Heading off the very real threat
So, what can be done to prepare us for this threat? First, we need to better educate people that deepfakes exist, how they work and the potential damage they can cause. We will all need to learn to treat even the most realistic videos we see that they could be a total fabrication.
Secondly, technology desperately needs to develop better detection of deepfakes. There is already research going into it, but it’s nowhere near where it should be yet. Although machine learning is at the heart of creating them in the first place, there needs to be something in place that acts as the antidote being able to detect them without relying on human eyes alone.
Finally, social media platforms need to realize there is a huge potential threat with the impact of deepfakes because when you mix a shocking video with social media, the outcome tends to spread very rapidly and potentially could have a detrimental impact on society.
A career in data science – or your money back
The Explore Data Science Academy is offering high demand skills courses – and guarantees employment for trainees
The Explore Data Science Academy (EDSA) has announced several new courses in 2020 that it says will radically change the shape of data science education in South Africa.
Comprising Data Science, Data Engineering, Data Analytics and Machine Learning, each six-month course provides vital digital skills that are in high demand in the market place. The full time, fully immersive courses each cost R60 000 including VAT.
The courses are differentiated from any other available by the fact that EDSA has introduced a money back promise if it cannot place the candidate in a job within six months of graduation and at a minimum annual starting salary of R240 000.
“For South Africans with drive and aptitude, this is the perfect opportunity to launch a career in what has been called the sexiest career of the 21stcentury,” says Explore founder Shaun Dippnall.
Dippnall and his team are betting on the explosive demand for data science skills locally and globally.
“There is a massive supply-demand gap in the area of data science and our universities and colleges are struggling to keep up with the rapid growth and changing nature of specific digital skills being demanded by companies.
“We are offering specifically a work ready opportunity in a highly skills deficient sector, and one which guarantees employment thereafter.”
The latter is particularly pertinent to young South Africans – a segment which currently faces a 30 percent unemployment rate.
“If you have skills in either Data Science, Data Engineering, Data Analytics or Machine Learning, you will find work locally, even globally. We’re confident of that,” says Dippnall.
EDSA is part of the larger Explore organisation and has for the past two years offered young people an opportunity to be trained as data scientists and embark on careers in a fast-growing sector of the economy.
In its first year of operation, EDSA trained 100 learners as data scientists in a fully sponsored, full-time 12-month course. In year two, this number increased to 400.
“Because we are connected with hundreds of employers and have an excellent understanding of the skills they need, our current placement rate is over 90 percent of the students we’ve taught,” Dippnall says. “These learners can earn an average of R360 000 annually, hence our offer of your money back if there is no employment at a minimum annual salary of R240k within six months.
“With one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the world – recently announced as a national emergency by the President – it is important that institutions teach skills that are in demand and where learners can earn a healthy living afterwards.”
There are qualifying criteria, however. Candidates need to live in close proximity (within one hour commuting distance), or be prepared to live, in either Johannesburg or Cape Town, and need to be between the ages of 18 and 55.
“Our application process is very tough. We’ll test for aptitude and attitude using the qualifying framework we’ve built over the years. If you’re smart enough, you’ll be accepted,” says Dippnall.
To find out more, visit http://www.explore-datascience.net.