Mbeki questions Twitter as truth tool

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IOL pic jan17 thabo mbeki Independent Newspapers Former president Thabo Mbeki expressed his opinion about the usefulness of Twitter at a gathering in Stellenbosch. Photo: Masi Losi

Cape Town - South Africa’s former president Thabo Mbeki said on Monday he was sceptical about Twitter being a great conveyor of reliable knowledge.

Mbeki said in response to a question after a speech to the University of Stellenbosch Business School he thought the social media tool was not appropriate for discussing knowledge meant for the betterment of society.

“I am sceptical about this notion of Twitter being that great conveyor instrument for the democratisation of knowledge,” Mbeki said at the start of the school's knowledge conference.

“If you want to discuss knowledge which has got to do with the betterment of society I don't think it is appropriate.

“Even the Internet in general, blogging and so on, is not the place where you can put all these things under theories.”

In his speech, Mbeki questioned whether knowledge had become “less democratised and more compromised” as an instrument for the improvement of society. He said traditional media institutions were unable to control which political rhetoric “caught fire” with the public.

It was difficult investigate claims and counter-claims, he said. The conference should look into how false knowledge was “advanced” by groups with agendas.

He suggested that “false knowledge” was used to remove slain Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi from power.

“False knowledge was advanced that the Gaddafi regime was about to slaughter millions of civilians,” Mbeki said.

“This was to justify the imposition of a 'no-fly zone' over Libya which served as a cover to overthrow the Libyan government and impose a regime approved by the Western powers in their interest.”

The Council of Europe had also asserted that “false knowledge” was propagated about a swine flue epidemic in 2009 to benefit highly profitable pharmaceutical companies.

Mbeki said the media remained very influential in South Africa.

“It becomes a very important vehicle for the conveyance of that knowledge,” he said.

“Particularly where readers seem to have sufficient confidence in the media, so they think if it comes from a newspaper it is true.

“Thabo Mbeki stole half a dozen eggs from a supermarket. Therefore... it is true because it comes from the newspaper,” he said. - Sapa


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tizozo, wrote

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02:48pm on 21 January 2012
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... I would agree on the Twitter aspect - but I think Mr. Mbeki lost it when he included the internet in general and blogs!! Clearly Mr.Mbeki does not make use of internet resources like SQLForums and DOTNETForums or JAVAForums or any science related forums where alot of specialist level knowledge is freely shared by those with a common interest.

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Annette Holtzhausen, wrote

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07:07am on 18 January 2012
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I am glad that Mr. Mbeki now joined the majority of twitter users who have known for ages that twitter is not the chat version of an encyclopedia!

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Ed, wrote

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09:33am on 17 January 2012
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Sorry about the previous link. Here is the correct one http:ipan.co.zapodcastsTM_Stellenbosch_USB_Speech.pdf

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Ed, wrote

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09:16am on 17 January 2012
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It would have been better if the author had at least given us a link to Mr Mbeki's entire speech. That way each individual can read the entire speech and contextualise the snippets that have been mentioned above. I feel the author only quoted the issues that may be controversial, taken out of context. I can already see the next headlines..."Mbeki is against Twitter!" Here is the link to the entire speech for those interested http:ipan.co.zapodcastsTM_Stellenbosch_USB_Speech.pdf

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tshepo, wrote

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09:05am on 17 January 2012
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i cannot agree more with him on the libya part and the way media is being used this days.HOpe many see it this way as well before its too late. tweeter, face book etc.

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josh, wrote

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08:59am on 17 January 2012
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Tell me Mr. Mbeki, you vote for the ANC not so? Ok, so then if you vote for a political party who is not a reliable conveyor of information (in fact they're outright liers and criminals), why would you have a problem with twitter in that regard? Your mentallity has me baffled.

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Anonymous, wrote

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08:21am on 17 January 2012
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Bwah haa ha ha Piet that is brilliant. Mbeki should know that Twitter and newspapers are a place where people have opinions. Opinions can sometimes be based in incorrect knowledge. How different is this from his "knowledge" about HIV?

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Siya, wrote

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07:59am on 17 January 2012
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Zwelakhe, You are right to say that social media is merely a platform through which people can engage in discussions however by nature of these forums it they are susceptible to misuse by those who would like to propagate misinformation. This is largely because nobody is responsible for ensuring that the information being shared in these platforms is truth. Users of these platform then has to be sceptical of the information they learn from these forums, much like news papers in our country of lately. It is thus not an appropriate platform to conduct meaningful discussion as one would be quetioning the authenticity of the information being shared all the time. This is what I understood the former President to be saying I concur.

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Ndim, wrote

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07:22am on 17 January 2012
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In part I think I can understand his point

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shimie mashabane, wrote

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07:10am on 17 January 2012
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We were told Iraq has weapons of mass distractions,Y did they arrest bin laden without killing him And with Gaddafi were told they have save millions cause he was about to kill millions,So to me Mbeki is right.

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Kenny, wrote

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06:45am on 17 January 2012
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Typical, some of comments digress to throw lame punches at Mbeki. How disgusting. I disagree with Mbeki when he refers to the "the internet in general, blogging and so on". However I agree with him on the Twitter. Unless it is used only as a carrier of links when it comes to conveyig knowledge, Twitter is hopeless'

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chris machio, wrote

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06:36am on 17 January 2012
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Mr. President, you have erred. Move with the times. Oh, and readers are intelligent: they know when they are being lied to. So, give them some slack.

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jon, wrote

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06:01am on 17 January 2012
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Well we're not sure that the ANC is a conveyer of reliable information either so what now?

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Nick, wrote

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05:54am on 17 January 2012
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Its for sharing ideas and info quickly and easily. I've never thought of it as a centre for knowledge generation. Then again the protector of dictators wasn't much interested in ideas of others.

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Zwelakhe Sithole, wrote

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04:02am on 17 January 2012
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The former president has got it all wrong. Social media is nothing but a platform. On its own, it does not produce content, users do. If you talk about dialog, social media provide a platform to engage in true dialog with the society. An opportunity was missed by Trevor Manual when trying to engage the society when developing his national plan. Instead of using platforms such as twitter and facebook, they created their own platform that was cumbersome and very few people participated. Even then, they never really engaged in true dialong

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Anonymous, wrote

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03:53am on 17 January 2012
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Oversimplification leads to falsification, Mr. President, Sir. Cry, Beloved sunny South Africa when a president makes such puerile statements.

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Anonymous, wrote

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01:11am on 17 January 2012
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If what Mr Mbeki is saying about Gaddafi is true, then Africa will be held responsible by history for just standing by as Libya is auctioned away. However, some questions still remain unanswered. Why was there no constitution in Libya but a green book? Why did Gaddafi entrust his son to mobilise the grassroots and not the party machinery. It looks like Gaddafi was a leader waiting to fall anyway. All it took was just the right wind. If not the west, an Arab spring was coming

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Piet S. Knott, wrote

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11:56pm on 16 January 2012
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And the alternative is of course The world according to the current ruling party?

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Anonymous, wrote

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11:29pm on 16 January 2012
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How ironical when the man says (from his own intelligence) the HIV does not lead to aids. Now he quenstions other peoples theories in discussion forums of one form or another.

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