Nigeria protests: The misinformation circulating online


By Peter Mwai
BBC Reality Check

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image copyrightReuters

image captionProtests about the Sars police unit have been going on for two weeks

Protests began earlier this month in Nigeria calling on the authorities to abolish a controversial police unit called the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (Sars).

The story has started trending globally, with thousands of posts on social media, but not all of them factual.

We have looked at some of the misinformation that has spread online.

The woman protestor whose brothers were not killed by the police

A striking image of a woman called Ugwu Blessing Ugochukwu crying while holding a folded Nigerian flag, and sitting on top of a statue have been widely shared on Twitter.

The image is real, and she had joined protests in south-eastern Nigeria. But as the image was shared, people started adding misleading information.

“Not one brother…3…on the same day…killed and dumped in a well,” a widely-circulated reply to one of the posts with the image said, claiming she’d lost family members at the hands of the police.

  • How Nigeria’s anti-police brutality protests went global

When we contacted a spokesperson for Ms Ugochukwu called Gideon Obianime, he told us this was not true.

He said Ms Ugochukwu herself was briefly detained by Sars forces in 2018, but although she has brothers, none of them had been killed by Sars forces.

“I think people started adding assumptions to the photo. She has been getting a lot of backlash [over this],” Mr Obianime told the BBC.

Carrying the national flag will not protect you from the army

This unproven claim has gone viral – that a soldier cannot shoot someone holding the Nigerian flag.

It’s been widely shared on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, with some suggesting there’s an unwritten military code to that effect.

The claim appears to have originated from a screenshot of a conversation, in which someone says they were told this by their dad, a retired army officer.

Someone replies saying: “I think this is military code… You guys should repost so protesters will see.”

However, there’s no evidence for this, and some accounts have since deleted their posts after other online users pointed out it was misleading.

Onyekachi Umah, a lawyer in Nigeria, told the BBC there were laws about respecting the national flag, but added: “Just the fact that someone is holding the flag would not mean they [the army] cannot act.”

We have asked the army to find out if the practice is not to target any protester holding the flag, but they have yet to respond.

However, a Nigerian journalist told us they had asked a former senior officer about this, and had been told no such practice existed.

No, a senior Nigerian official didn’t call the protests ‘child’s play’

A few days into the protests, a video was posted online showing one of President Muhammadu Buhari’s advisers, Femi Adesina, apparently referring to them as just “child’s play”.

Many interpreted this to mean the president’s adviser was dismissing the protests.

Alongside the video was a message: “If you are not angry enough, I hope this video helps you.”

But the video is old and has been edited out of context.

It relates to a different set of protests held two months ago – and has nothing to do with the Sars issue.

At the time, Mr Adesina had been on a local TV station talking about those protests. But the video posted on Twitter has been edited to remove the introduction, which would have given the proper context.

The TV station concerned, Channels TV, has now issued a clarification about the video.

And Mr Adesina himself has released a statement, thanking the station for the clarification, and saying that the misleading video led to his phone being “bombarded…. with curses, expletives, and messages from the pit of hell”.

The ‘fake’ shopping mall incident that wasn’t fake

And now for an example of something being called out as fake that did happen – although exactly who was involved is not clear.

A video showing looting and violence at a shopping mall in south-west Nigeria’s Osun state over the weekend became the subject of accusations and counter-accusations about links to the anti-police brutality protests.

The short video was posted by a Twitter account belonging to the All Progressives Congress UK – a group allied to Nigeria’s ruling party – alleging that protesters linked to the anti-Sars movement were looting.

But some online users supporting the anti-Sars protests were quick to dismiss the video.

They said it was not related to Sars protests, but from the retaliatory attacks last year against South African-associated businesses after Nigerians had been targeted in South Africa.

Others claimed the video was staged.

From the video, some shops in the location can be clearly identified and we found they match photos posted on the Osun Mall website.

The BBC spoke to one of the shop owners and someone who witnessed the attack, who confirmed it took place.

Also, this mall only opened in December last year, some months after the xenophobic attacks – which rules out the video being from then.

We have contacted the state police to try to find out who was involved in the incident, but have yet to receive a response.

Nigerian Catholic bishops and an anti-Sars protest

A tweet that has been re-tweeted thousands of times falsely claimed that Catholic bishops had marched in support of the protests.

The tweet included a photo showing bishops among a procession of people, most of them wearing black, with some carrying placards.

A reverse image search shows it is from March, when the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) led a protest in Abuja against killings and kidnappings in the country.

The umbrella body of Catholic Bishops in Nigeria has issued a statement supporting the Sars protests, but they have not physically joined in any protests.

Additional reporting by BBC Monitoring’s Linnete Bahati and BBC Africa’s Yemisi Adegoke

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Art auctions rebound through online sales but blue-chip investments remain stymied by ‘draconian’ legislation


Online art auction sales across Australia are booming as wing-clipped travellers look to spend their money, stakeholders say, but rule changes for self-managed superannuation funds are continuing to stymie blue-chip investments.

Co-proprietor of an Adelaide fine art auction house Jim Elder said the shift to online auctions in response to COVID-19 restrictions had hit the mark with art lovers in recent months.

“The message in the trade is they’re not going overseas, and the amount of money people spend nationally on overseas travel is staggering, so these people are spending it on personal things for themselves,” he said.

Mr Elder said multiple bidders on works that would typically fetch about $4,000 had bolstered prices to about $6,000.

Mr Elder added that a live auction held after the easing of restrictions also had strong results, bringing in $950,000 compared to a typical pre-COVID-19 result of about $800,000.

Live auctions are being held again as COVID-19 restrictions ease.(Instagram: elderfineart_auctions)

Auction houses ‘booming’

Anita Archer from the University of Melbourne’s arts faculty said auction houses across the country were “booming”.

“I think it’s because auctions have been set-up with online facilities for quite a while now, and when you think back to [online bidding website] eBay and things like that, people are comfortable with that,” Dr Archer said.

This is despite many auction houses initially bottoming out as auctions were postponed in response to pandemic restrictions that rolled out across the country.

Dr Archer believed, anecdotally, that travel restrictions had led many people to turn their attentions to their own homes.

Commercial galleries, however, were not having such a good year, Dr Archer said, with some doing well at times, and others “struggling”, particularly with closures.

Gross sales tracking poorly

University of Melbourne postdoctoral researcher David Challis said that while there were reports of positive demand at specific auctions, the Australian Art Sales Digest suggested the overall market was significantly “disrupted” this year.

He said its annual sales total record for the year to date was $56,188,000.

A group of people stand around an auctioneer.
Live art auctions have been impossible for much of 2020 due to pandemic restrictions.(ABC News: Avani Dias)

He said the best recovery for the Australian art market would be to reverse legislative amendments made in 2011 that made it cost-prohibitive for self-managed superannuation funds (SMSF) to invest in art.

Dr Challis said collectibles and personal-use assets were previously allowed to be leased to SMSF members and displayed in their homes under home and contents insurance.

But 2011 changes put an end to such activity, with such items requiring independent insurance, and specialised storage.

Dr Challis said SMFS investment in collectables and personal assets had since halved from $723 million to $369 million, even as overall assets owned by the funds had nearly doubled from $388 billion to $740 billion.

Dr Challis said a reversal of the rules would help the arts sector to recover from COVID-19 with “zero cost implications for government”.

“We keep tipping public money into the arts sector,” he said.

“But then legislate so that artists find it hard to sell the products of their work to the natural buyers; older high-net-worth Australians who have squirrelled their savings into SMSFs because of the tax incentives,” he said.

A spokesperson for the Assistant Minister for Superannuation, Senator Jane Hume, said the Government had no plans to change the rules.

The spokesperson said a fund’s investment strategy had to be focused on the best interests of members and could not be influenced by other considerations.



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More Aussies to shop online this holiday season


As retailers and consumers alike head toward one of the more unique
holiday shopping periods Australia has seen, survey business Pureprofile has
released data on how Australians are looking to shop this Christmas.

And after a year of closed stores and lockdown, it seems the online
trend is catching on: 40 per cent of Aussies will turn to online shopping to
purchase holiday gifts this year, and about 39 per cent said they would shop
with local brands, rather than international ones, in order to better help
Australians businesses.

“These figures are telling. We’re a population struggling with the new
normal caused by COVID-19 this Christmas,” Pureprofile CEO, Martin Filz, said.

“It’s still unclear what COVID-19 will bring in the new year; whether
that’s more waves of the disease or the vaccine we’re all hopeful for [but]
it’s clear from this research that the uncertainty is having a big impact on
consumer behaviour and spending habits.”

And, after a year of bushfires, drought, floods and a pandemic, it’s

little surprise to see more Australians shying away from big-budget shopping.

According to the survey, only 20 per cent of Aussies are planning on spending over $500 on gifts this year (down from 30 per cent last year), and a further 10 per cent have said they won’t buy any gifts at all (up from six per cent).

The money saved is likely to be put aside, said Filz, with more
Australians spending only money they are absolutely certain they have.

However, that’s not to say Australians are in a dour mood. In fact,
according to the ANZ-Roy Morgan consumer confidence index, consumer confidence
rose for the seventh week in a row, up 0.4 per cent to the highest level since
May.

This story first appeared on our sister publication Internet Retailing





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Woman loses $13,000 after buying excavator through online business she believes is a scam


Bogus companies are using remote towns like Mount Isa in north-west Queensland to help facilitate their scams because they are not easily traced, the local chamber of commerce has warned.

A Tasmanian woman lost more than $13,000 after she purchased a used excavator online from a company called AC-Equipment Supplies that claimed to have an address in the mining town.

Debra Crosswell, who lives in Glenorchy near Hobart, said she now believed it was an “elaborate scam” as the machinery never arrived and the website had disappeared.

“They had a registered ABN, everything looked legit,” Ms Crosswell said.

“I have from them a sales contract, I have a return policy, I have an invoice, everything stamped, dated.”

Ms Crosswell said she deposited the money into the company’s account earlier this month, but became concerned after being told delivery of the machinery was delayed.

“I worried about it all night. I couldn’t sleep,” she said.

The company that Ms Crosswell dealt with is not to be confused with the business AC Equipment registered in South Australia or ACE Equipment in New South Wales.

AC Equipment said, over the past four months, they have received a dozen phone calls from the public about scam concerns.

An AC Equipment spokesman said the South Australian company was a legitimate business that had been operating for 20 years.

A sales contract sent to Ms Crosswell from AC-Equipment Supplies displaying an address in Mount Isa, which is the physical address of another business.(Supplied: Debra Crosswell)

Concerns raised with business group

Ms Crosswell said she contacted the chamber of commerce in Mount Isa, which informed her the company — AC-Equipment Supplies — did not exist and another business was operating at that location.

“Being Mount Isa, being the recession that we’re in, we thought obviously they’re going to have heaps of earthmoving equipment in Mount Isa because they’re a mining town, so we just thought we were getting a good deal,” she said.

Commerce North West’s Emma Harman said she had received several phone calls from residents interstate enquiring about the legitimacy of businesses purporting to have stores in Mount Isa, including five queries about a caravan website.

The caravan website said the company’s showroom was at an address in Mount Isa, which happened to be in the same suburb of Ryan — the address on the excavator sales contract received by Ms Crosswell.

“It’s only when you start looking at the addresses that they’re giving on that website that the addresses don’t match up with what they say they are.”

Ms Harman said she believed scammers were using Mount Isa addresses because of the town’s remote location.

There was no answer when the ABC called the companies’ phone numbers — the calls went to an automated voicemail.

Tasmania Police said it was aware of Ms Crosswell’s case, which was being investigated by authorities in Queensland.

Queensland Police said it was investigating where the $13,000 Ms Crosswell claimed to have lost had gone.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said it had received 214 reports about scams relating to caravans since the start of the year, which had resulted in more than $129,000 in losses.

It also received 15 reports of scams regarding excavators, totalling more than $73,000 in losses.

Be wary of cheap online deals

An ACCC spokesperson said people should arrange physical inspections before purchasing big-ticket items and be wary of deals that sounded “too good to be true”.

The spokesperson said online tools, such as Google Maps, could assist in verifying a company’s physical address.

Ms Crosswell urged consumers to use bank cheques when making online purchases and to check company credentials with business groups.

“My bank said they can’t do anything because it wasn’t an online transfer,” she said.

She is also calling for more information and support for scam victims.

“When something like this happens you need someone to talk to,” Ms Crosswell said.

Queensland Police said they referred victims to non-government organisations if they required support.

A charity group, Life After Scams, offers an emotional support service for scam victims.



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Online scammers target RM Williams as new ownership generates publicity, experts warn consumers


RM Williams boots are a “perennial favourite” for online scammers, Australia’s consumer watchdog has warned, after receiving reports of dodgy websites running fraudulent advertisements to dupe shoppers.

The company made headlines earlier this week when it announced a return to Australian ownership after mining tycoon Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forest and his wife Nicola bought the iconic brand.

Australians have welcomed the move, but it has also attracted the attention of scammers who have been quick to take advantage of the publicity.

Scam victim John told ABC Radio Adelaide he saw an advertisement on Facebook Marketplace offering the boots at “bargain prices”.

“I thought that I would take advantage of this seeing that the site looked genuine,” he said.

“To my dismay, after the purchase was successful, there was a small note to say that the transaction would display a different trading name on my card amount.

“Sure enough, two transactions appeared overnight, stopping short of overdrawing the account.”

RM Williams says its own website is secure for online purchases.(ABC News: Nic MacBean)

Another listener to ABC Radio Adelaide, Michelle, reported a similar experience — but with an unexpected result.

Listener Glenys also said she did not receive the three pairs of boots she ordered online.

“It was the first time we ordered without using PayPal,” she said.

Hundreds of complaints

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission deputy chair Delia Rickard said fraudsters often “tied their scams to current issues”.

“Although I have to say, RM Williams boots are a perennial favourite for scammers,” she said.

“They are expensive, people like them, they are looking out for a good deal, and unfortunately scammers take advantage of that.”

She said most scams advertised the boots for about $100, which was significantly less than the retail price of a pair of RM Williams Craftsman boots at $595.

“You’ve got to wonder sometimes.

“I think in part it’s because they can have some record of having supplied you with something.”

Company issues warning

Early last year, RM Williams issued a public warning about websites offering its branded footwear at “heavily reduced prices”.

“These are fraudulent websites and RM Williams has not supplied any footwear to the operator of these websites,” it said.

According to RM Williams, its own website was secure for online purchases and utilised internet-standard encryption technology to scramble sensitive data as it was transmitted.

It said all credit card numbers were wiped from its secure database following the payment and dispatch of an order.

A close-up of several pairs of RM Williams boots.
RM Boots are once again under the limelight following the company’s return to Australian hands.(ABC News: Isobel Roe)

Ms Rickard said if the price was “too good to be true, it probably is”.

She recommended doing a search online to compare prices.

“But also to do a Google search to see what other people are saying about the site and their experience with them,” Ms Rickard said.

“It can be very difficult to tell, so you do actually need to take those steps, unfortunately.”

She said another telltale sign of a dodgy website was unusual payment mechanisms.

Ms Rickard recommended people use a debit card for online transactions that limited the amount of money that could be withdrawn from it.

RM Williams has been contacted for a comment.



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Five key steps to stronger online positioning and greater profits


Every minute of the day there is more content being uploaded online than we have ever seen before. The big three social platforms for business right now are Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. Facebook alone has 147,000 photos uploaded every minute. Instagram users post 347,222 stories each minute. LinkedIn users apply for 69,444 jobs every minute. Business owners tend to go one of two ways with this information. They either jump up and say “Yes! What an opportunity” or “Why would I even bother marketing on there when there is a plethora of content. I won’t even be noticed”.

It’s common for business owners to worry about how to cut through the
noise online and be seen through constant stream of updates in a newsfeed. With
online sales exploding throughout 2020 it’s something you must not ignore.

The problem with this increased activity is how to stand out online. The
solution is simple. It’s time to shift your thinking away from marketing your
products and services to creating positioning that does this in conjunction
with your marketing efforts.

There are five keys to creating powerful online positioning that you can
leverage for profits.

1. Know your point of difference and share it

This is different to the traditional marketing “Unique Selling Proposition”. The very thing that makes you different is you and your employees or team. The knowledge you have, the personalities you all have and the way that you do things is different to anyone else “out there”.

Many are afraid to share themselves online, but this is one of the main
keys to being able to stand out. If it was easy, everyone would do it. You have
a unique opportunity to showcase your knowledge and that of your team. The
human element of your business is exactly what makes you different.

2. Know your audience

To create powerful positioning, you must hone in on exactly who the
audience is that you want to connect with online. You need to know their
problems, stress points and challenges. You also need to know their goals and
what they want. When you know these things, it makes it simple to do the work
on establishing your positioning.

3. Identify your unique process

Most businesses have a process that they work through with their

audience and this is the key to you creating your positioning online. The first
part with this is to identify what that process is as a big picture overview
for your clients.

For example, the first thing you might do is establish their goals. Then
stage 2 is developing their plan. Then stage three is the strategic
implementation of that plan. Stage four could be checking in on their results.
This could apply for a huge amount of industries.

When you then break each of these stages down into the micro stages and
steps that your unique ‘twist’ on what you do becomes apparent.

For instance. In the goal setting stage, you might have a specific way
that you help people determine what their goals are, and they align with what
you’re doing. You will draw upon your knowledge and experience to break this
down, utilising everything you know! This is where the magic happens.

4. Share it with authority

Now that you have your process documented and the way that you implement
that process, it’s time to share hints, tips and advice online. Writing blogs
and articles is a great place to start with this. From there, you can start to
write a combination of long and shorter style posts. Even better, is starting
to share some of this content using video.

The best thing you can do is to share your thinking with certainty and
with authority. Someone who communicates with a sense of certainty is magnetic
and captivating. Share your knowledge widely and freely.

5. Tell people what to do next

Sharing content is great as it establishes authority (and positioning)
in your area of expertise. But, if you neglect the Golden Rule of Offering,
then your audience may not be aware that they can buy from you. Make sure you
let them know how to get more help from you and how to buy from you.

When you follow these five steps, you will create powerful positioning
online and fast. This will lead to more visibility – and more profits.

Nicola Moras, social media and visibility expert and author of “Into the
Spotlight”





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Five ways to grow your business online through the COVID-19 pandemic


2020 has thrown everything but the kitchen sink at Australian businesses – from COVID working restrictions and city-wide lockdowns to businesses operating with an online-only model.

But throughout hardship and difficulty, we have witnessed businesses showing resilience, innovation and that “never say die” desire that makes Australians renowned around the globe.

Using digital marketing practices, you can ensure that you get your business noticed, crucially with your target audience, which leads to converting sales and coming out the other end of the pandemic in a good shape.

1. Optimising your website content to be COVID-conscious

Communication with customers has been key throughout the pandemic and it’s sure to continue being a focus as we come out of it. If you have a blog function on your website, now is the time to take advantage of it.

Use each blog to answer a question a searcher is going to have about COVID-19 relevant to your industry, using available tools like AHREFS, Google Keyword Planner and Google search results themselves. Working on your website content provides a nod to your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) efforts. With the intention of improving the positioning of your website’s online presence through a number of methods, creating relevant content is just one way to place your website in more relevant search results.

2. Update your Google My Business

Google My Business (GMB) is a free platform businesses can access to put themselves, their contact information, product and service information, posts and reviews in more places on search results, maps and more. During the pandemic, treat Google My Business like any other social platform, so consider:

  • Updating your trading hours, if required.
  • Amending your bio to include any processes (contact-free pick-up, etc.) consumers should be aware of.
  • Adding or removing any new or no-longer-on-offer products or services.
  • Posting updates or specialists as regularly as possible.

3. Create relevant Google Ads

For businesses running Google Ads, COVID-19 might actually help you get more bang from your buck as you’ll be aiming for a more niche audience with less competition, depending on the scenario. More consumers are purchasing products online while not every business who offers their desired products will be running ads. This creates a space for you to insert yourself. So if your daily budget is $50 and each click is $0.50, your ad will show to endless people until 100 people have clicked the ad.

It’s also worth noting that, when there is less competition for ad placement, you pay less per click.

4. Ask for more reviews

More customers online means snap decisions are rife, and one way to battle this is by having a solid and public online rating. Online reviews provide confidence to people browsing for businesses to fulfil a need.

Ensure you ask clients to mention specifics about their experience, including any safety measures they notice while interacting with your business. Not only will this let people know you’re practising what you preach, you’ll also be showing people you’re actually open, in case they think you haven’t updated your trading hours.

5. Send out bulk emails and/or SMS

It’s hard to believe but many people do not have social media or use search engines regularly – this means they will miss out on your messaging, unless you vary your methods.

To help capture these people, utilise your existing customer databases through a manual mail out, a bulk email or bulk SMS. Remember, there are email and SMS marketing laws in Australia to abide by. So, please use a reputable system, like Mailchimp.

Adam Boote, Director of Digital and Growth, Localsearch





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Thai court suspends local online TV amid protests


Article content

BANGKOK — A Thai court approved the suspension of the online platforms of domestic Voice TV on Tuesday, after an investigation into content alleged to have breached emergency measures aimed at ending protests, the digital ministry said.

“Voice TV will be suspended,” ministry spokesman Putchapong Nodthaisong told reporters, adding that the suspension order covered all online platforms, including website and social media accounts.

Some content also breached the Computer Crime Act by uploading “false information,” he added. (Writing by Matthew Tostevin; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)



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Embark on a hassle-free online sourcing and networking journey


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China revises laws to strengthen protection of minors online


Article content

SHANGHAI — China has revised laws to strengthen the protection of under-18s online, state news agency Xinhua reported late on Saturday, forcing internet product and service providers to take action when necessary.

The revised laws, voted for adoption by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee on Saturday and effective from June 1 next year, state that internet product and service providers “shall not offer minors products and services that induce addiction,” Xinhua reported.

Providers of online services including gaming, livestreaming, audio and video, and social media must set up “corresponding functions” such as time and consumption limits for minors, the news agency said.

Service providers must take necessary measures to stop cyberbullying, and parents or guardians of minors who are cyberbullied have the right to inform service providers to delete, block or disconnect links.

The revised laws also force kindergartens and schools to report harassment and sexual assault of minors to public security and education authorities. (Reporting by Emily Chow; Editing by Christopher Cushing)



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