Internet users more vulnerable due to COVID – Broadcasting Commission

The Broadcasting Commission of Jamaica (BCJ) says in its just-released annual report for the fiscal year ending March 2021, internet users are becoming more vulnerable as a result of growth in space under the impact of COVID.

BCJ chairman, Professor Anthony Clayton, said the organization is therefore ramping up its media and information literacy programs.

He stated: “The COVID-19 pandemic has been a catalyst for further transformative and irreversible disruption… the pandemic also highlighted the growing importance of tackling the massive damage that can be caused by fake news.”

“A lot of people rely largely on social media for their news, and most of them don’t realize how many items are misleading or malicious,” he said.

The commission referred to an FBI report that COVID-19-related scams doubled the total volume of cyber fraud in the US as scammers took advantage of the fear and chaos and gave fake advice about COVID-19 to trick recipients into their links to click. By clicking on these links, users would download malware and record personal and financial information.

Clayton also noted that the pandemic had serious consequences for broadcasters in many countries, with ad revenue falling by as much as 75 percent in some cases.

The BCJ report, submitted to parliament on October 5, 2021, said many broadcasters had to take cost-cutting measures, including automation, layoffs and salary cuts, to keep their stations up and running.

To this end, the committee held a series of consultations with the major media operators in June 2020 to get their views on the business, policy and regulatory implications of the pandemic.

It then made several recommendations to the government for changes to tax regimes and other reforms to help the media industry survive.

Meanwhile, Internet service providers and subscription TV providers, which bundle cable and Internet services, benefited from the increased traffic and were relatively unaffected by the downturn.

The net effect of the pandemic, the BCJ said, has been to accelerate the migration to online delivery.

“The pandemic therefore coincided with the start of a further phase of transformation; there will be no going back to the pre-pandemic position,” said Professor Anthony.

Another increasingly pressing concern, he said, is that information is now being created, disseminated and collected on an unprecedented scale, but most people don’t know when, why or to what extent information about them is being stored, accessed and shared.

The BCJ head stated: “It is essential to address this shortage in our transition to a world where people develop deeper and closer trusting relationships with smart devices controlled by artificial intelligence. These are not trivial challenges.”

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