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Often, these same individuals don’t think twice about posting that same information on social media. The results of sharing too much can impact not only your personal and work life, but the lives of your family and friends.


Protect yourself, your family and your friends


Social media is a great place to reconnect, share, and learn. However, just ensuring that your social media privacy settings are strong isn’t the only way to protect yourself. Once you post anything online, you have lost control of it. You need to understand what is being collected and how it is being used. Here are some helpful privacy considerations when using social media:


  • Privacy Settings: Carefully create and frequently review privacy settings for all of your social media accounts, especially when changes in terms of service and privacy policies take place. Remember that even if you have secured your settings for who can view your postings, all of your information is being collected, mined, and stored on the social media platform servers – perhaps forever.
  • Privacy Tree: Social media settings can’t protect you from friends, relatives, and co-workers who view your postings and then have the ability to share those postings with their circle of friends and so on.
  • Family Sharing: Everyone loves to talk about their friends and family. But posting silly birthday cake pictures or health and behaviour problems can lead to bullying, especially for those who are younger, and could impact their personal lives.
  • Information Sharing: If a service is ‘free,’ then you are the product. Investigations have found that what you are doing online may be sold to others.
  • Location Services: Check-in data can be added to other personal data to create a profile of your life and habits, which can lead to stalking and open you to other harassing events. In addition, be aware of any location information included in any pictures or videos you post.
  • Artificial Intelligence: AI, social media, and marketing are the perfect combination. Marketers now use information gathered from your habits online to feed you ads focused on your last search or purchase, and thereby continue to learn even more about you.
  • Unintentional Disclosure: The information you post about yourself may reveal much of your personal history, and thus the answers to your online secret security questions.


The legal consequences of using social media


South Africans have to think before posting anything online, or potentially face jail time and hefty fines. If the Cyber Crimes and Cyber Security Bill, and Prevention of Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill are signed into law, it will become a criminal offence to spread harmful or bigoted messages online.  Remember you need consent first before you share other people’s photos.


Four things you should never post on social media:


  • Offensive comments about your workplace or boss.
  • Derogatory, racist or sexist comments.
  • Sexually explicit photos or videos without consent.
  • Posts inciting violence or destruction of property.


Understanding terms and conditions


Terms of service is a legally binding contract between you, the user, and the social media platform in which you agree to adhere to the platform’s terms in exchange for the right to use its services. Always be aware of what you are agreeing to. Do you want all your information out in the wild?


Privacy is far more than just setting the privacy options in your social media accounts. The more information you share, and the more others share about you, the easier it is for fraudsters to engage in Social Engineering scams which could target you.  Think about it, the more you share, the more information that is collected and used by corporations, governments, and others.  Fraudsters on the dark web make money from selling your information.  One of the best ways to protect yourself is to consider and limit what you share and what others share about you, regardless of the privacy options you use.


Let’s take a look at fake news


Generally speaking, fake news is a false story that is published as if it were true. Historically, fake news was usually propaganda put out by those in power to create a certain belief, even if it was completely false.

Social media has now created an environment where anyone with an agenda can publish falsehoods as if they were truths. People can be paid to post fake news on behalf of someone else or automated programs, often called bots, can publish auto-generated fake news. The motivations as to why people create and distribute fake news are as numerous as there are fish in the sea. Nowadays deepfake photos and videos are becoming more prevalent, some of which can be very convincing because they often use figureheads or celebrities as a strategy to trick people into believing the fake content.


Why is fake news dangerous?


While some examples of fake news seem innocent or just for a laugh, a lot of it can be malicious and even dangerous. Fake news is created to change beliefs, attitudes, or perceptions, and ultimately the behaviour of individuals. This means if you fall into the trap of believing fake news, your beliefs and your decisions are being driven by someone else’s agenda. Also, in some parts of the world, there can be legal consequences for publishing and sharing fake news.


How to spot fake news


So how do you protect yourself from fake news?  The most effective way is to only trust something once you can actually verify it.


  • Consider the Source: Think about the actual source of the news. A local blog may not be as trustworthy as a major academic journal.  What are their objectives?  Are the sources credible? Do they even exist?
  • Multiple Sources: Don’t just rely on a single article. The more you read from various sources, the more likely you can draw accurate conclusions. Also consider diverse sources and perspectives, for example, news from different countries or authors with different backgrounds.
  • Check the Author: Who is the author? Research them to see if they are a credible author, their reputation in the community, whether they have a specific agenda, or if the person posting a real person. Are they authoring within their field of expertise?
  • Check the Date: Make sure that the date is recent and that it is not an older story simply rehashed.
  • Comments: Even if the article, video, or post is legitimate, be careful of comments posted in response. Quite often links or comments posted in response can be auto-generated by bots or by people hired to put out bad, confusing, or false information.
  • Check the Funding: Even legitimate publications have sponsors and advertisers who can influence an article or source. Check to see if the article is funded, and if so by whom.
  • Repost carefully: Fake news relies on believers to repost, retweet, or otherwise forward false information. If you’re uncertain as to the authenticity of a post, think before you click or hold off on sharing it with others.


Common sense is your best defence


In today’s fast-paced world of social media, fake news surrounds us every day. If you are not careful, you run the risk of believing and acting upon it. Take the time to follow the above basic steps to help ensure you make informed decisions based on facts.  This really cannot be emphasised enough – you absolutely have to think and rethink before you post anything potentially controversial or explicitly harmful on social media platforms. Ask yourself: is it worth it? Once you weigh up the pros and cons, you will probably find that keeping some thoughts to yourself is the best option.

About the Author

Maston Lane
Group and Bank Chief Operating Officer, Sasfin Holdings

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