BY Wesley Diphoko 3 MINUTE READ

The internet has played a critical role in enabling access to information and opportunities. It has also exposed many to dangers that are getting worse the more we adopt it as our source of information and platform for access to resources. Internet dangers are not new, they are however getting worse and for that reason there’s a need for heightened caution and protection. Recently we’ve witnessed the spread of misinformation through platforms such as WhatsApp, X (formerly Twitter) and via YouTube. During the Taxi Strike voice notes were shared and they threatened violence if people were to be seen using any form of transportation. Some of those voice notes were proven to be false. A couple of days before the Taxi Strike a leading figure in the tech world claimed that in South Africa there’s a repeat of what happened in Rwanda. Daily there’s an email claiming to offer millions if you just click a button which then leads to people losing their hard earned money. At the surface level you would think that the victims are mostly the illiterate, however we are beginning to see even the most sophisticated amongst us also falling victim for some sophisticated internet dangers. There’s no age discrimination, from advanced in age to younger ones, the internet has become the most dangerous place for everyone. Just a wrong choice of a device, website or app can expose young people to undesirable content and get them hooked onto harmful information that could even lead to addiction or even death in the extreme. It is therefore not surprising that the Chinese government is getting stricter about internet usage, particularly for young people. China’s cyberspace regulator recently indicated that children under the age of 18 should be limited to a maximum of two hours a day on their smartphones, sending shares in tech companies tumbling. The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) said it wanted providers of smart devices to introduce so-called minor mode programmes that would bar users under 18 from accessing the internet on mobile devices from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. The Chinese government is not alone in this regard. The European Union is currently discussing new privacy rules that build trust and security online for the Digital Decade. The rules are designed to enable greater control over data and devices. And, they will update current ePrivacy rules to cover new forms of communication online. New ePrivacy rules go hand in hand with other EU initiatives to ensure privacy online. For example, the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) ensures personal data can only be gathered under strict conditions and for legitimate purposes. The US has been concerned about Tik Tok and the claim that the platform is harvesting data for wrong reasons. Over the past few days we’ve seen an uproar online due to Zooms Terms of Service which were seen as abusing user data. The challenge with all of these dangers is that there’s very little that individuals can do to protect themselves. People who are advanced in age run a risk of not even realising that they are using a dangerous website or app. Young people are also struggling with the good and bad online. Artificial intelligence is making it even harder for sophisticated users to pickup misinformation online.

What is sad is that even people who should know better due to their position in society are falling for lies and traps online. Society is in deep trouble with no form of protection or safeguards.

The harmful nature of digital platforms requires an urgent intervention to protect people from harm. The nature of the challenge is such that the issue can no longer be left to individuals to decide for themselves what is good and bad. There’s a need for global protection measures to mitigate the dangers. Is it not time for information platforms to be labelled based on the type of information they provide, their services and their conduct? Is it not time for devices to come with built-in protection tools in the same way that cars come with safety belts? There has never been a better time for businesses that promote quality information and safe features to rise. Consumers are in desperate need to choose between the good and bad internet and digital platforms.