Alternative facts, fake news or lies?

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

If there’s one thing the US election taught us, it’s that “alternative facts” exist and any news which puts Trump in a negative light is, apparently, “fake news”. Fake news does exist, but it’s not what Trump wants it to be.

“Fake news, or hoax news, refers to false information or propaganda published under the guise of being authentic news. Fake news websites and channels push their fake news content in an attempt to mislead consumers of the content and spread misinformation via social networks.” (

During the US election, it became clear that most of the fake news generated, including sites that improved Donald Trump’s chances as a candidate, originated from outside the United States. In Macedonia, one teenager started a lucrative business spreading the pro-Trump fake news. Whether this played any role in Trump’s presidential win, we’ll never know. Speaking of Trump – Did you hear he signed a visa-free travel policy for South Africa? Not true! Fake news! Sad! Even in South Africa, it was suggested that the ANC used fake news to try and influence the local elections. 

It’s easy to get swept up when you read something upsetting or ludicrous and of course, your first instinct is “I have to tell someone!” So you share it on Twitter, you send it via e-mail and you post it on Facebook and you feel like you are involved in spreading the news. And so something that’s not true spreads like wildfire and fake news peddlers are laughing all the way to the bank.

The increase of fake news means that we have to be more careful and even suspicious of what we read on the internet. If it looks like a news website, it doesn’t mean it is. On the contrary, it’s remarkably easy to create fake websites. There are ways to spot fake news, but it will require you to be more vigilant and above all, read more critically. Local (real) news website EWN lists a few tips to help you to distinguish between the real and the ridiculous. Mybroadband goes into even more detail with their article “How to stop falling for fake news on Facebook.”

Fake news characteristics are easily recognisable if you take the time to read the article before sharing it. By reading, you will notice details which don’t fit. If a headline sounds sensationalistic, it’s probably a fake article attempting to lure you into clicking.  Remember Google is your friend and can indicate whether the same news is shared by legitimate news sources or if this is the only one. It will also show if the article is an old one recycled to generate new clicks.

Avoid getting trapped in an echo chamber. We prefer to only read information and opinions we agree with and inevitably search engines only suggest similar articles with similar views. Try to read a bit wider – even articles covering topics that don’t necessarily interest you or you don’t agree with. Challenge your own viewpoints. 


More articles on fake news: 

We can’t talk about ‘fake news’ if we can’t agree what it means
Google and Facebook partner for anti-fake news drive during French election
Fake news website (Wikipedia)
List of fake news websites
List of satirical websites



Inetkey for staff and students

Friday, February 24th, 2017

 For detailed information on Inetkey for staff, please look at our SERVICE CATALOGUE.

For information on Inetkey/Internet for students, have a look at the information on

Free sites for students and staff

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017

The following sites are open to students and staff. This means that you won’t need inetkey to access them and your account won’t be billed. Most of these are for academic purposes. In addition to this, you can also request free access to other sites you need for academic and research purposes. Therefore, if you need to access a site regularly for work, let us know by sending an email to



Selfie: Is it worth the risk?

Thursday, March 31st, 2016

We don’t bat an eyelid anymore when someone takes a photo of themselves in a public place. Selfie-sticks, aka  Naricissticks, have become the new normal.. Estimates of daily selfie posts range from one million to as high as 93 million on Android devices alone, according to Michael Weigold of the University of Florida. (

Yes, it’s sometimes irritating and obtrusive, but surely it’s just a bit of harmless fun?

Quite the opposite seems to be true in some cases.

In February tourists in Argentina removed an endangered baby La Plata dolphin from the sea to take pictures of themselves with it. The animal died from sheer trauma and heat exhaustion. 

In March a tourist dragged a swan from a lake in Macedonia to take a selfie. Again the animal died.

The selfie trend not only endanger the lives of animals, but also humans. (though some of these might qualify for the Darwin awards)

In 2015 Russia launched a campaign to warn its population against the dangers of selfies, called “A cool selfie could cost you your life.” The reason? Apparently an estimated hundred Russians have died trying to take photos of themselves in dangerous situations. This includes a woman shooting herself, two men blowing themselves up with a hand grenade and people taking pictures on top of moving trains.

India also has a rising selfie problem, with more citizens dying while taking selfies than any other country in the world. Mumbai now has “no-selfie zones.”

In Seville, Spain, a Polish tourist fell of a bridge while trying to take a selfie. In May of 2014 a Cessna pilot lost control of the plane and killed himself and all his passengers.

On Tuesday an Egyptian Airline plane was hijacked and a British man used the opportunity to take a selfie with the hijacker. He reckoned he had nothing to lose at that stage. Today another Brit had to be rescued from Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis. She was trying to take a selfie on the mountain and was inadequately dressed for the cold conditions. More on selfie-related deaths on CNN.

What would drive a person to risk endangering himself for the sake of a “cool”photo? 

Maybe the need to constantly prove and compare ourselves to other people? Social media provides an easy platform where almost instant feedback and possibly approval is given. 

Michael Weigold of the University of Florida published an article in The Conversation, in which he explores this question. He also mentions research done by psychologist Gwendolyn Seidman.

Dr Seidman suggests that there is a link between narcissism and selfies and she bases her statement on two studies looking specifically at Facebook selfies. Read dr Seidman’s article in Psychology Today and decide for yourself. Also let us know what you think of selfies and why you think they are so popular?

Is Google Street View invading our privacy?

Thursday, March 31st, 2016

google-mapsGoogle Street View gives us access to parts of the world we have never seen before. You can travel to the Great Barrier Reef, the Grand Canyon or the Eiffel tower without setting foot outside your house. Even our own university has been added to Street View recently. 

Unfortunately access to areas previously inaccessible, could also pose a threat to safety and privacy. 

Objections have been made to Google images showing “people engaging in activities visible from public property in which they do not wish to be photographed and have published online.” Google maintains that these images are removed or blurred. Number plates and people’s faces are blurred to protect privacy.

They also maintain that the photos were taken on public property. However, Street View cameras are mounted on elevated structures to enable them to take better pictures, so they might take photographs NOT in a public area.

“On May 13, 2009, Google Japan announced that it would modify their cameras to scan from a lower height of 2.05 meters above ground level, 95 centimeters lower than the original height of the camera head. The new height is intended to avoid having cameras view over fences in front of homes and into homes. This reduced height is to apply immediately, and all areas previously visited will be rescanned from the reduced height. Scans taken at the original height will remain available until they are replaced with the new images.” (

Various countries have laid complaints against Google’s Street View policy and tried to prevent them from photographing. In most cases they conceded and Google continued filming. 

If you do have a problem with an image Google reported, there is the option to report it via Google’s Street View support page. Just keep in mind that the image will not be removed, but only blurred.



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