NEWS
24/01/2018 11:15 SAST | Updated 24/01/2018 11:31 SAST

Ramaphosa Dismisses Fake-News Sites' BEE And Bitcoin Stories

The deputy president is the latest in a long line of local politicians to feature on notorious sites that make up lies and pretend they're news.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday denied saying that black economic empowerment (BEE) is "coming to an end", identifying the websites publishing these words as a supposed quote by him as purveyors of "fake news"; also known as "lying".

In a Tweet on Wednesday morning, Ramaphosa published screenshots from two fake-news websites masquerading as news publishers, on which he is quoted as saying BEE would end soon and that "businesses should be treated equally".

In a story contained in a second screenshot, Ramaphosa is alleged to have launched Bitcoin Code -- "a platform that all but guarantees a bright financial future for South Africans" -- in partnership with a U.S. team. The fake news site also claims, falsely, that Ramaphosa made over R500-million as a "long-time Bitcoin enthusiast and early... investor".

The newly appointed ANC president, who is currently at the World Economic Forum's annual meeting in Davos, confirmed that both stories are fake:

"I have never said these words. BEE is ANC policy, to which we remain committed, and I have never endorsed Bitcoin," he said.

The fake news machine (still) in full swing

The fake-news website featuring the story on BEE, southafricauncut.com, has previously raised alarm about the dissemination of fantasy fiction masquerading as news. A domain information search of the website reveals it is hosted in Utah in the U.S., although the administrator organisation is listed as Gossip Mill SA, based in Pretoria.

A telephone number linked to the registrant Gossip Mill SA, with the Johannesburg area code 011, appears to lead to an automated loop or dead-end. A Facebook page under the same name and email address appears to have been set up in May 2016.

The second fake-news website flagged by Ramaphosa, news-24-now.com, is a clear knock-off of News24 – a legitimate site published by Media24 – with edited graphics superimposing Ramaphosa on a supposed CNN report.

Source: news-24-now.com

News-24-now.com, based on a domain information search, appears to be registered in Panama. No further information on the owner of the domain was immediately obtainable.

Editor-in-chief of News24 Adriaan Basson on Twitter reiterated the article does not belong to the Media24 title, saying "more fraudsters [are] abusing our brand".

"Springing up like poisonous mushrooms, every day... The war on #FakeNews continues," said Basson.

IT Online SA, in response, called on the public to avoid clicking on fake news articles.

"Please be aware that clicking... can have serious consequences -- not only for your device's safety, but for the reputation of those in the articles, and those who forward them," IT Online tweeted.