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MXit defends safety slurs

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The Film & Publication Board wants to start regulating social networking operations like MXit.

According to a report in Beeld, the move comes after so-called "slut lists" were published on the popular cell phone-based social networking service.
These lists included names, telephone numbers and addresses of schoolgirls and were distributed by MXit.
The acting director of the Board is reported as saying it will strictly apply amendments to take steps against MXit "if necessary".
When the "slut lists" first emerged last week, MXit responded with a statement defending the system and advising users on proper usage.
"MXit is a pioneering local company that, using existing technologies, namely internet, GPRS data connections and mobile phones, gives nearly 7,5-million registered users of the South African population access to free communication," the statement reads.
"In addition to the free one-on-one communication MXit offers, and in order for it to continue delivering this service, it also offers affordable entertainment to its
community, from music to chat rooms to mobile content."
Herman Heunis, founder and CEO of MXit, comments: "It saddens me, to read, and I quote:: 'MXit management had known for years that there were problems with the service and that it had been abused by youth as well as criminal elements'.
"It is disturbing to note that some critics go so far as to label MXit as 'extremely dangerous' and some even suggest that MXit is involved in most crimes where the youth is involved. Clearly there is a serious misunderstanding as to how MXit's technology works and where responsibilities lie.
"Normal Instant Messaging (IM) which forms the core of the MXit product is perfectly safe as every user can chat only to his/her circle of friends once added as a
contact on their mobile phones. The concept of IM has been around for more than a decade and was brought to the South African mobile world by MXit in May 2005.
"About 95% of MXit's entire user base (international users included) of nearly 9-million registered users, use MXit primarily and solely for this type of communication and it is perfectly safe, free and easy to use.
"The vast majority of problems, where MXit is implicated, originate from the public chat rooms and only when patrons do not stick to basic internet security practices as promoted by MXit and many other Internet sites.
"The idea of chat rooms was introduced to the internet world many years ago and MXit saw fit to add this functionality as a paid service for its users. Public chat rooms allow strangers to meet and exchange messages in a virtual world and as long as total anonymity is maintained, it is safe.
"Revealing personal information in any public chat room is extremely irresponsible as the possibility of criminal elements being present is a reality. It becomes dangerous when people, who meet in public chat rooms, agree to meet in person and various newspaper reports all over the world have continually borne witness
to this.
"The brutal reality is that criminal elements worldwide have been on the Internet for years and unfortunately MXit is not spared this evil."
MXit started publishing safety guidelines nearly three years ago and keeps these updated, he says.