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Facebook to appoint global content oversight body

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By IME ARCHIBONG, Facebook’s vice president of product partnerships

With more than a billion people — and tens of thousands of languages and ethnic groups across 54 countries, Africa has a beautiful, complex tapestry of cultures. Three years ago, while in Ghana, someone told me how much they felt Facebook and Instagram enabled people across the Continent to capture and tell their own stories, with a speed and style that never existed before. With hundreds of millions of people here across the continent using Facebook and Instagram every day to share messages, videos and images with the people and communities they care about most, this gives us the important responsibility of making complex decisions about which content we allow, and which content we take down, in line with our Community Standards.

Every day we grapple with our responsibility to keep our community safe while giving people freedom to express their opinions about the issues that matter the most to them.  We take this responsibility seriously and know that we don’t have all the answers. We also know that we must continue to learn from experts and members of our community, in particular those of you who live and work across Africa.

This is why over the next year we will design a global body, an Oversight Board, which will have the authority to review some of our most challenging and contentious content decisions. It’s critical to get wide input from local experts, including academics, NGOs and civil society from across the world — and here on the Continent— on how this independent body could work.

As part of our information gathering and consultation process, we’re hosting a workshop in Nairobi over the coming few weeks, with participants from across the Continent. We are incredibly excited about deeply engaging with this group on the hard questions related to content on our platforms. 

We recognise that this is a complex process that will strengthen how we exercise our responsibility to users. To be clear, we are not asking a group of experts to make decisions for us. We are, however, asking for their insights to help inform our thinking and hold us accountable. We’ll still be making hard decisions every day, and we accept the full weight of that responsibility. 

The board, as currently envisioned, will consist of about 40 global experts with experience in content, privacy, free expression, human rights, journalism and safety. Where we need to, we will supplement member expertise through consultation with geographic and cultural experts to help ensure decisions are fully informed. The board will exercise independent judgement when reviewing our most difficult and disputed content decisions and hold us publicly accountable if we don’t get them right. This should in time bring more perspective, accountability and transparency to our content decisions. The board will have the power to overrule or uphold Facebook’s content decisions and will be able to recommend changes or additions to policies. 

Through workshops such as the one in Kenya, we are listening to our partners and incorporating a diverse range of perspectives from across Africa into the board’s design process. These insights are critical in designing a board that can serve our global community and uphold our values, while bringing independent judgement to controversial cases. 

The success and the ultimate effectiveness of the Oversight Board will depend on its ability to accommodate an inclusive and diverse range of perspectives, across language, culture and experience. Above all, it’s important we achieve a diversity of backgrounds and perspectives to reflect our truly global community. While we can’t include representatives from every country and culture, Africa will be represented on the board alongside other regions, and we continue to explore ways to improve. 

We are very much at the beginning of this process – it has not been done before, and, with input from our community across Africa, we are working hard to get it right. 

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Vodacom cuts cost of smallest bundle by 40%

The country’s largest mobile operator has kept to a promise made last month to slash the price of entry-level data packages

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Vodacom has cut the data price of its lowest-cost bundle by 40%, reducing the price of a 50MB 30-day bundle from R20 to to R12. This follows from the operator’s promise in March, when it announced a 33% cut in the cost of 1GB bundles, to reduce prices of all smaller bundles by up to 40%.

Vodacom’s various 30-day data bundle prices will be cut across all of its channels, with the new pricing as follows:

30-day bundle size New Price Reduction
50MB R12 40%
150MB R29 33%
325MB R55 33%
500MB R79 21%
1GB R99 34%
3GB R229 23%
5GB R349 14%
10GB R469 22%
20GB R699 31%

Vodacom confirmed it will provide free data to access essential services through Vodacom’s zero-rated platform ConnectU with immediate effect. The value of these initiatives, it says, is R2.7-billion over the next year.

“Vodacom can play a critical role in supporting society during this challenging time and we’re committed to doing whatever we can to help customers stay connected,” says Jorge Mendes, Chief Officer of Vodacom’s Consumer Business Unit. “Since we started our pricing transformation strategy three years ago, our customers have benefitted from significant reductions in data prices and the cost of voice calls. Over the same period, we invested over R26 billion in infrastructure and new technologies, so our customers enjoy wider 2G, 3G and 4G coverage and vastly increased data speeds.”

The latest data reductions will complement the discounted bundle offers that will also be made available to prepaid customers in more than 2,000 less affluent suburbs and villages around the country. For qualifying communities to access further discounted voice and data deals, they need to click on the scrolling ConnectU banner on the platform via connectu.vodacom.co.za

ConnectU – which is a zero-rated platform – also went live this week. It will provide content aimed at social development and offers a variety of essential services for free. Learners and students enrolled in schools and universities can access relevant information for free, with no data costs. The ConnectU portal includes a search engine linked to open sources such as Wikipedia and Wiktionary as well as free access to job portals; free educational content on the e-School platform; free health and wellness information and free access to Facebook Flex, the low data alternative to Facebook that enables customers to stay socially connected.

Vodacom’s popular Just4You platform has been a significant contributor to the approximately 50% reduction in effective data prices over the past two years. Substantial cuts in out-of-bundle tariffs and the introduction of hourly, daily and weekly bundles with much lower effective prices have also driven increased value and affordability, resulting in R2-billion in savings for customers in 2019.

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OneBlade shaves price of electric precision

Electric razors and their blades are usually quite expensive. But the Philips OneBlade shaves the cost, writes SEAN BACHER

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Electric razors come in all shapes and forms and their prices vary as well. When your nearest electronic retail outlet opens again, you will be able to pay a small fortune for a wet and dry razor that cleans itself, shows you when it needs to be recharged, and tells you to replace the cleaning solution – all via a little LCD panel in the handle.

But does everyone want that? Does everyone need that? Surely there must be customers who want an easy-to-use, no-mess, no-fuss razor that gets the job done just as well as a “smart razor”?

With this in mind, Philips has launched its OneBlade wet and dry electric razor. The razor is dead simple to use. It comes with three stubble combs – 1mm, 3mm and 5 mm –  which can be clicked onto the head much like one would with a hair shaver. Should you want a really close shave, simply the combs off. I found this to be the most effective as I don’t have a beard.

The razor’s blade is the size of the striking side of a matchbox and has 90-degree angles all round. This offers precise shaving and, because of its small size, it is able to get just about anywhere on a person’s face.

The blade has a usage indicator that shows when it is time to replace the blade – usually after four months – and an additional blade is included in the box.

The OneBlade’s battery takes up to eight hours to charge, and will give up to 45 minutes shaving time.

Overall, the Philips OneBlade will give a man a comfortable and precise shave. Its battery life, combined with its size, makes it a perfect travel companion as it is no bigger than an electric toothbrush. Its relatively low price compared to other electric razors also counts in its favour.

The One Blade can be bought from most electronic retailers or can be ordered online from websites like takealot.com. The razor retails for R650 and a set of two new blades will cost around R450.

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