Cyber bill set to tackle Fake News

A new law set to tackle the scourge of fake news is expected to be introduced to Parliament in due course. The Computer and Cybercrimes Bill (the bill) gazetted on 16th June 2017 introduces the following language in clause 12:

“(1) A person who intentionally inputs, alters, deletes, or suppresses computer data, resulting in inauthentic data with the intent that it be considered or acted upon for legal purposes as if it were authentic, regardless of whether or not the data is directly readable and intelligible commits an offence and is liable, on conviction, to fine not exceeding ten million shillings or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years, or to both.

 (2) A person who commits an offence under subsection (1), dishonestly or with similar intent—

(a) for wrongful gain;

(b) for wrongful loss to another person; or

(c) for any economic benefit for oneself or for another person, is liable, on conviction, to a fine not exceeding twenty million shillings or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years, or to both.”

The bill attempts a catch-all situation but mostly describes the sensationalizing of news as well as individuals manipulating their academic credentials. It makes more sense in trying to curb this which has put a number of politicians in the spotlight as well as a few cases involving a fake doctor, a fake lawyer and a fake CEO).

Fake news is defined as falsehoods presented as news. The use of this term has been applied to legitimate news sources, whose primary asset is their credibility. But perhaps the biggest reason in pushing for gazettement must have come from the fake news factor that many believe impacted the 2016 United States presidential election. If interpreted politically, the bill could result in a chaotic free-for-all of mudslinging with candidates and others being accused of crimes at the slightest hint of hyperbole, exaggeration, poetic license, or common error and thus a recipe for amendment. And campaigns heating up, bloggers and social media administrators should be careful.

The bill awaits Parliamentary approval.


Google fined $2.7b for abuse of dominance over shopping searches

According to Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, “Google abused its market dominance as a search engine by promoting its own comparison shopping service in its search results and demoting those of competitors. What Google has done is illegal under EU antitrust rules. It denied other companies the chance to compete on the merits and to innovate. And most importantly, it denied European consumers a genuine choice of services and the full benefits of innovation.

Google’s shopping service

Google’s flagship product is the Google search engine, which provides search results to consumers, who pay for the service with their data. Almost 90% of Google’s revenues stem from adverts, such as those it shows consumers in response to a search query.

In 2004 Google entered the separate market for comparison shopping in Europe, with a product that was initially called “Froogle”, re-named “Google Product Search” in 2008 and since 2013 has been called “Google Shopping”. It allows consumers to compare products and prices online and find deals from online retailers of all types, including online shops of manufacturers, platforms (such as Amazon and eBay), and other re-sellers.

When Google entered comparison shopping markets with Froogle, there were already a number of established players. Contemporary evidence from Google shows that the company was aware that Froogle’s market performance was relatively poor (one internal document from 2006 stated “Froogle simply doesn’t work“).

Comparison shopping services rely to a large extent on traffic to be competitive. More traffic leads to more clicks and generates revenue. Furthermore, more traffic also attracts more retailers that want to list their products with a comparison shopping service. Given Google’s dominance in general internet search, its search engine is an important source of traffic for comparison shopping services.

Consumers click far more often on results that are more visible, i.e. the results appearing higher up in Google’s search results. Even on a desktop, the ten highest-ranking generic search results on page 1 together generally receive approximately 95% of all clicks on generic search results (with the top result receiving about 35% of all the clicks). The first result on page 2 of Google’s generic search results receives only about 1% of all clicks. This cannot just be explained by the fact that the first result is more relevant because evidence also shows that moving the first result to the third rank leads to a reduction in the number of clicks by about 50%. The effects on mobile devices are even more pronounced given the much smaller screen size.

This means that by giving prominent placement only to its own comparison shopping service and by demoting competitors, Google has given its own comparison shopping service a significant advantage compared to rivals.


Other Google cases being investigated concern:

1)    the Android operating system, where the Commission is concerned that Google has stifled choice and innovation in a range of mobile apps and services by pursuing an overall strategy on mobile devices to protect and expand its dominant position in general internet search; and

2)    AdSense, where the Commission is concerned that Google has reduced choice by preventing third-party websites from sourcing search ads from Google’s competitors.

via European Commission Press Release Database