Furious MXIT lashes out at media

MXIT is a world-wide mobile instant messaging tool (now evolving into a social network) with around 15-million users (claimed). It’s based in South Africa but has offices around the world and substantial numbers in countries like the Phillipines.

Every time there is an incident via their platform, journalists with scant understanding of the technology tend to focus on MXIT as the source of the problem, rather than the real issues. Mainstream media, in particular, tend to get it wrong. It’s part of an ongoing problem with journalism and media here, which sees a lack of seniority and too many junior reporters in newsrooms. An offshoot of this is that we don’t see enough specialisation in newsrooms, ie: we see general reporters covering specialist, technical beats requiring in-depth knowledge, in context.

It boils down to a lack of understanding of the environment. Blaming MXIT is akin to calling for a ban on telephones or email, because reprehensible elements of society (eg: pedophiles) happen to use them.

It rather misses the point. It’s a classic case of “shoot the messenger”: the problem isn’t MXIT, which is merely a communication enabler. The issue is education and common sense. The broader problem is society itself, but this, I suspect, is a harder one to solve than educating users.

In a rather long (and angry) press release, which I have shortened for your reading pleasure, MXIT singles out local media for “sensational” and “unprofessional” reporting. I’m inclined to agree:

“MXit is calling on the media to stop misusing its name in what the company believes is a dangerous trend to sensationalise headlines… is concerned about the ongoing misleading and inaccurate use of its name in media reports across all media platforms, including television, print and online. MXit is currently consulting its lawyers to determine whether the most recent example is a breach of the South African Press Code, or indeed if it amounts to defamation.

In the latest example, media reports claim that MXit is responsible for a teenage girl from Johannesburg disappearing for 48 hours after telling her school that she would not be attending classes. Her parents allege that she may have met someone on MXit. The school is considering disciplinary action on the girls return and although the case is being investigated, there is no proof that a conversation with an unknown person on MXit led to the girl’s disappearance…

…MXit is not the problem. We offer a system that allows people to communicate at a fraction of the cost of sending sms or voice calls. Our users send approximately 35 000 messages per second during peak times and the MXit community visits our platform more than 20 million times a day. Even if it does emerge that she accepted a friend request from a stranger, it is not fair to condemn a technology of close to 15 million users for bad choices made by one user,” says Juan du Toit, international marketing manager for MXit…

MXit has an obligation to ensure that its users understand that media reports are not entirely true in this case and has sent a message to its community which reflects the facts…

…We condemn the unprofessional and sensation-seeking journalism displayed by e-TV and The Star newspaper this last week…

…We want to warn all users again to enjoy our technology with the necessary responsibility and level of maturity; and never to reveal personal information. We challenge both media owners to get these simple facts accurate, and to properly understand our technology. Can we trust what is reported?

…MXit has always stressed the importance of education and responsible online behavior in a technological advancing world. In addition to the safety regulations that is constantly reminding its users of, it has also developed a set of guidelines for parents, available on its website: http://www.mxit.com

Comments (4)

  1. Goblin wrote::

    Can’t imagine why they’re complaining. It’s not like their key demographic reads or watches the news. 😉

    The reason they’re being used as the scape goat is because, as you said yourself, they’re a ‘communication enabler’. By enabling that communication people expect them to shoulder the responsibility of protecting their children, you know, so parents don’t have to do it themselves perhaps.

    Tuesday, August 11, 2009 at 5:09 pm #
  2. Dan wrote::

    i understand they’re annoyed not sure what sending out an angry press release will do to help them though. sending out a release that basically says the media sucks might not endear them to the journos they want to stop slagging them off… on the other hand attacking mxit is like blaming 9/11 on phone companies cos the terrorists used cell phones

    Tuesday, August 11, 2009 at 5:46 pm #
  3. matt wrote::

    @Goblin… yeah there does seem to be some abdication of responsibility on the parents behalf…

    @Dan yeah, felt the PR was: 1. too long, 2. too angry, 3. repetitive. (you should have seen the unedited version.) However I agree with their sentiments and understand their frustration. I’d work however on expressing it. Probably educating, building ties with journalists and media, rather than scolding them is a good strategy too.

    Wednesday, August 12, 2009 at 1:10 am #
  4. vincent wrote::

    I’m immediately reminded of Marilyn Manson’s trial by fire by the religious right in America post Columbine. Parents at the school and of those introverted kids who were responsible for the shootings had their guilt absolved by virtue of the fact that they were listening to the devil’s music and as such weren’t culpable but rather forced to commit the heinous act by the repeating sound of manson’s voice.
    Imagine the parent’s relief when they discover it wasn’t because they were absent when their kids needed them the most, or as Manson himself later said didn’t listen – instead it was all the work of a sinister puppet master.

    Nevertheless I see the same trend here, why take responsibility for your kid’s actions when clearly the enabler to such allowed the action to take place…There weren’t odd ice cream men, filthy kiddie fiddlers and the like 20 years ago…now were there?

    Perhaps in the future technology shan’t get the blame and those of us who have grown up using the tech will be brave enough to admit fault, even when the natural human emotion to negate it arises….

    Friday, August 14, 2009 at 12:51 pm #

Trackback/Pingback (1)

  1. […] posted on the website – for both young users and their parents to stick to. Just this week, Matthew Buckland blogged that every time there is an ‘incident’ on the platform, “journalists with […]