Tue, 23 Jul 2019

Unisa silent on action against fake news staffer

06 Dec 2018, 00:37 GMT+10

The University of South Africa (Unisa) remains mum on the outcome of an investigation into one of its staff members identified as a fake news kingpin.

Following a News24 investigation earlier last month, it was revealed that William Mahlatse Ramatseba, an office administrator working at Unisa's Sunnyside campus, was the creator of Mzansistories.com and Allnews.co.za, two websites known for publishing false, defamatory and insensitive articles.

At the time, Unisa indicated that they were conducting an investigation into Ramatseba's conduct.

Now, more than a month after the expose, Unisa has yet to confirm the outcome of any of its investigations, or the steps taken against Ramatseba.

Read: Does government have a responsibility to fight fake news?

Despite requests for an update into the investigation made late in November, Unisa has not confirmed whether the investigation has been concluded, or whether any action has been taken in respect of the investigation's findings.

Last month, university spokesperson Martin Ramotshela told News24 that a preliminary investigation was underway.

"We confirm that the university has initiated an investigation into the alleged conduct by the employee. Unisa views this alleged transgression in a very serious light and will take appropriate steps if the outcome of the investigation requires such."

At the time, Unisa said it noted the media report on Ramatseba's conduct, but still had to comply with its own internal labour processes and had to investigate the matter before taking action.

Possible criminal charges

Ramatseba was linked to a network of 14 websites, and was identified using digital fingerprints scattered across websites, social media accounts and even the very adverts he used to make money.

The most active, Mzansistories.com and Allnews.co.za, were used to peddle sensational disinformation. The traffic attracted to the website was used to generate revenue from adverts placed on the sites, converting the clicks into cash.

Both Ramatseba and his sister then distributed the articles on social media, mostly using Facebook groups.

But with Ramatseba's identity revealed, he has been opened up for civil, and even criminal, legal action for some of the articles he posted.

Also read: Unisa staffer who manufactures fake news could face criminal, hate speech charges

Emma Sadleir, social media lawyer and author, previously told News24 that the individuals targeted by this website might have civil and criminal claims against him.

"The website and its stories are obviously, blatantly fake, but they do generate a lot of hatred. So certainly if anyone in those stories could make a case against him for defamation, or criminal charges of crimen injuria. One could even go as far as lodging [a] complaint of hate speech with the Human Rights Commission for some of his articles."

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