Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan has described the role of trolls on Twitter in the fightback against government’s bid to rid South Africa of corruption as “frightening”.
Gordhan made the remarks during his speech at the annual Kgalema Motlanthe Foundation inclusive growth forum in the Drakensberg on Friday evening.
The dialogue, which is in its second year, focused on strengthening local government and local economies.
Gordhan – while acknowledging the positive impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution – also said its dangers had to be brought to the fore.
“The fake news phenomenon, the fight-back phenomenon and the kind of increasing dominance of trolls in the twitterati community… having your own two thumbs working is one thing, but having digitised machines shooting out at the many different variations of the same thing, certainly been used in the fightback against corruption,” said Gordhan.
“I think it’s a frightening phenomenon that I think we need to understand better; how does it undermine the inclusivity agenda at the end of the day,” he told guests at the gathering taking place throughout the weekend.
The public enterprises’ minister warned that there were worrying anti-democratic trends developing globally and making their way into South Africa.
“The disruption of privacy and access to data, ownership of that data, artificial intelligence, the digital revolution and platforms being created is wonderful stuff, but where’s the data?” questioned Gordhan.
“Who owns the data? Who is making money from that data? To what extent is our privacy being compromised, how is that data being used to shape our choices?” he continued.
He even questioned the role digital platforms had in decisions people made when voting for new leaders.
Gordhan also said the concept of national interest was starting to disappear, being replaced by self-interest, adding that there was a need to balance progressive option, national interest and self-interests.
“We need to start thinking about things but from a new set of lens, thinking about things but in a different way, being willing to take risks outside of the framework of orthodox so that we can actually come up with new sets of answers,” said Gordhan.