Praneetha and Avilash Aniruth boss of Carver Media.Picture Zanele Zulu.02/010/2013

There has been a huge outcry from the Durban digital community that the whole industry has been painted in a bad light following the events that unfolded this week and last involving digital agency, Carver Media.

The Mercury revealed that the agency created a web of interlinking fake social media accounts used to garner more tweets and posts using the hashtag #welovedurban as part of its involvement to market the city competing in an international competition. The competition is run by the WWF to promote sustainability in 44 cities across 17 countries.

Carver Media run the “I Love Durban” Facebook and Twitter pages and were paid R500 000 by eThekwini Municipality to run the #welovedurban campaign and to try to win the competition for the city.

The Mercury traced one of the fake social media accounts, @DarbyAndrianaDa or DurbanChick, used to promote Durban in a global competition, to the home and business premises of Praneetha and Avilash Aniruth, the owners of Carver Media. The Aniruths denied the allegations when it first surfaced, but have since gone to ground.

Following the Mercury report on the DurbanChick Twitter account on Monday, it has since been deleted. It was among at least 10 known fake accounts that were still in operation at the weekend.

Since the story broke, various digital industry professionals have voiced concerns about it giving the industry a bad name.

“This is really bad practice and frowned upon hugely. They have essentially created a husk of a campaign,” said digital entrepreneur, Glen Bo.

Nazareen Ebrahim, chief of Socially Acceptable, said: “Clients already look at us with wary eyes… They do not want to spend a lot of money on something like social media. Carver Media really has done us a disservice,” she said.

Cath Jenkin, a social media content specialist, said: “What Carver Media did affects the whole industry in a negative way and portrays all who work in the Durban digital sphere in a bad light and we are definitely not going to stand for this behaviour.”

In reaction to the “Carver saga”, Durban Digital Day, an organisation that holds events where digital thought leaders are invited to speak, has proposed the creation of an industry body similar to that of the RMI (Retail Motor Industry).

“In light of recent developments, we believe that a unified voice is required for the professional digital community in KZN… We invite all digital agencies, professionals and institutions that share our vision, ethics and passion to please join the movement,” reads their website.

Jonathan Darker, a Durban Digital Day shareholder, said the idea was to create a democratically elected group of individuals who would sit on a board.

The board would then come up with a constitution and a code of ethics for digital agencies, individuals and institutions working in the digital world. They aim to promote professional competence, ethical business practice and tender regulations, among other things.

The first meeting and election of committee members will take place on April 2 at the TBWA\Hunt Lascaris Durban office in Westville. Anyone working within the digital sphere or even just interested is invited to attend.

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