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Mybroadband.co.za censors consumer activism about Afrihost SMS- & email-spam

It all started off with receiving Unsolicited SMS from Afrihost towards the end of May 2017 when Afrihost wanted to do a Net Promoter Score campaign to randomly ask customers about their service. Due to human error, the campaign file contained random names with random numbers which resulted in me (and many other customers) getting several SMS with a mixup in first names:

I dislike unsolicited communication and make a serious effort to report abusers to ISPA and WASPA. In the above case, I reported it to WASPA and the Afrihost team and received feedback that problem of wrong text-messages were due to a system issue. At that point in time, I was happy with the response, until I received several SPAM emails later:

I then learned that a large number of people also received the same amount of spam as reported on MyBroadband.co.za. When I received my first email on the 1st June, I made sure that my marketing communication settings where unchecked with Afrihost – and they were:

The last Afrihost spam email arriving on 6th June 2017 at 13:47 and the subsequent error in attempting to unsubscribe was the final straw:

Leading up to the various SPAM emails, I received a number of requests for suggestions on how to deal with it and I then posted a detailed explanation on Mybroadband on what actions a consumer affected by unsolicited messages / SPAM can take. This was posted on 6th June at 13:36 and the post was removed hours later:

Although MyBroadband calls themselves an open community platform, the moderators and owners of the forum are very protective over their customers and do not like criticism which could affect advertising revenue or upset paying customers (such as the Afrihost representatives). Hence the “editorial freedom” is slightly skewed and one can not question a paying sponsor as this will either result in deletions of posts or a permanent ban.

Since the moderators and owners of Mybroadband do not inform a poster of a deletion, it is almost impossible to follow up and in my case I often take screenshots (such as the above) to show that actions by the mods or sponsors are not in the interest of the public.

I have always been transparent and believe in being objective and fair and in this case I have asked in the same thread why my posts had been deleted and was told the following:

Do you want to guess what happened to my post from 7th June at 12:49pm? Well, it is gone and to prove it, I have done another post to show this:

While I find this level of censorship despicable, there is nothing much one can do. Publishers will always protect their paying customers and criticism (even if it is helpful for consumers) are just not acceptable and upset sponsors.

Although I have received an apology from Gian Visser (Afrihost CEO) about the recent SMS- and e-mail spam, I have filled an ISPA complaint (COC.#1182) for the unsolicited emails as well as a WASPA complaint about the unsolicited SMS messages.

How to deal with unsolicited messages

The South African Electronic Communications Act (section 45) is quite specific about unsolicited messages – so much so, that it is deemed a criminal act. Once POPI (Protection Of Personal Information act) comes into place, offenders will face severe fines but for now the following can be done – the below information was censored/deleted from Mybroadband.co.za as Afrihost and the moderators felt that the content is “inappropriate”:

I have received a number of requests for advise regarding the recent unsolicited messages (both SMS and e­mail) from Afrihost and instead of replying individually, this is what you should do (this also applies to any other service provider):

SMS Spam

  • If you don’t know the sender, then go to http://smscode.co.za/ and identify the sender (it helps with the next step)
  • Lodge a complaint with WASPA – https://waspa.org.za/lodge­a­complaint/ (you can check your status here: http://old.waspa.org.za/unsub/status.php)
  • Ensure that in the WASPA complaint you state “Do not opt­out / disable / blacklist my number. My complaint needs to be taken up with the SMS provider’s customer”
  • Waspa will normally take about 5­7 working days to respond. Sometimes they are faster. Give it time. They normally will contact the SMS provider and they in turn will contact you.
  • Sometimes it happens that the SMS provider or their customer is full of non­sense, follow ECTA below
  • Also highlight that if the message is a marketing message, there needs to be an opt­out. Some senders will argue that it is not marketing (if so, also follow ECTA)

ECTA

  • Everyone knows what it is and that unsolicited commercial messages are illegal and criminal with fines and up to 12 months imprisonment
  • Don’t mention POPI – you will look like a fool, as it is not law yet, but you can hint that penalties under POPI are more severe Boilerplate email:
    I don’t think I need to go into the specifics of the ECTA and the provision that unsolicited email is a criminal offense. I received [STATE SPECIFICS OF COMMUNICATION / SCREENSHOTS ETC]
    
    I have never opted in and I consider those emails spam.
    
    As per requirement of the South African Electronic Communications Act (which I am sure you are familiar with) s.45.1 I would like to request that you ­- 
    (a) remove my details from your marketing database
    (b) disclose how you sourced my contact details and what details (i.e. name, ID etc) you have on record and
    (c) provide in writing that my details have been removed and you and/or it's affiliates will never contact me with unsolicited communication again.
    
    In case your system/affiliates have identified that I subscribed to unsolicited communication, I request disclosure of where, when and via which IP address I signed up via the mentioned email address.
    
    You can email me a detailed response. I have separately lodged a complaint with the IAB and failing to act on the above will result in further legal actions.

PAIA

In almost all cases they will be able to remove you from their own database. They will hardly ever be able to provide you with (b) or (c). In this case you can file a PAIA request (use “Form C ­ Private Body Request Access Form”) and as reason state:

  • Full records are required to exercise the protection of my right to privacy and non­solicitation
  • To verify that my information is not distributed / sold for commercial purposes
  • My right to privacy and human dignity has been violated by receiving messages not destined for me

Remember that a PAIA response can take up to 60 days. They can decline a request and you can then only appeal to the ConCourt. If they comply they can charge you a fee for providing records ­ those fees MUST be in their PAIA manual which must be easily accessible.

ISPA

They are great and super efficient. If you are dealing with an ISP, then lodge a complaint: https://ispa.org.za/code­of­conduct/complaints­form/

I know the above sounds like a lot of work, but no company should be allowed to infringe your privacy without your consent. Unfortunately I have never been able to go as far as appealing to the Concourt or filled criminal charges.

I have however taken Afrihost to task via ISPA (actually twice), had issues resolved with two major banks via PASA and am currently busy with several FSB/FAIS cases as well. It is effort but holds those companies accountable. Most of you will not make the effort (the same way everyone was a keyboard warrior in 2014/2015 when Afrihost and MWeb violated ISPA and CPA), but I do hope the above is helpful to the few who asked for assistance.

What about MyBroadband.co.za censorship

From the above description and screenshots you will see that my contribution was intended to be helpful and contextual to the current issue at hand. I personally think that censorship and deletion of context is outright wrong. At worst a topic can be closed for comments or a post should be moved. At no point in time should any community platform however result in censorship which undermines freedom of speech and removes consumer advice. Especially when the motive for censorship is of pure commercial reasons.



This post first appeared on SEO, ECommerce, Gadgets, Home Entertainment & Gaming | Naschenweng.info, please read the originial post: here

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Mybroadband.co.za censors consumer activism about Afrihost SMS- & email-spam

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