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Opinions of Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Columnist: Abdulai, Iddrisu

Stop ‘Airtel Magic Voice’ promotion

The National Communication Authority (NCA), police, teachers and parents must collectively join hands to stop ‘Airtel Magic Voice’ promotion immediately. Focused entirely on getting more profits regardless of the consequences, Airtel itself claims its new service is all about this: ‘Magic Voice is a fun-based service that allows callers to change their voice automatically and lets them speak to their friends in changed voices.’

Before any information is placed on TV or on radio, the norm is that all the implications of that item ranging from moral to psychological are duly scrutinized and approved of or otherwise modified. Even in news items covering fatal road accidents, newscasters are MANDATED to inform viewers that the images that follow may be disturbing. In Ghana, however, it seems every information that comes from anybody who can pay must be broadcast according to his/her wishes. Here, we look at the moral and security risks associated with ‘Airtel Magic Voice’.

Let us begin by looking at the advertisement itself. —A man is watching TV with his daughter when the daughter’s friend (actually a boyfriend) called her on phone. I guess the boyfriend’s name appeared on the phone. The father, who had warned the daughter not to receive phone calls from boys, answered the phone call. To his surprise, the voice was that of a female.

Whilst at a dining table, the father received a second call from the same caller. He answered and again the voice sounded like that of a lady. In the two situations, the daughter was jittery dreading that her father would notice that the caller was her boyfriend. However, the father, apparently convinced that the caller was a ladyfriend of her daughter, handed over the phone to the daughter. Fully pleased and satisfied, the daughter left the dining table to listen to the caller (who she knows is her sex partner).

The first question the girl asked her lover was, ‘What did you keep telling my dad?’ The youngman then explained that he used ‘Airtel Magic Voice’ promotion to change his voice into a female one. From the lady and her lover, a laughing bout then follows apparently in response to their cleverness at outwitting the morally upright father.

Where is the fun here? Having such a dangerous ‘fun’ with your to-be father-in-law? Clearly, the contents of the advert alone show that it is out to breed immorality. It effectively serves as the major breakthrough for boys or men to deceive parents when they are dating their (teen) daughters. What it tells us is that, ‘At last no more worry, call my dad or mom directly using ‘Airtel Magic Voice’ and s/he will permit me to speak to you or even to meet you’.

Apart from sexual immorality, the package also promotes lying and pretence. After all, the lady in the advert equally pretended to be unaware that her boyfriend was the one calling. What is wrong with our society today? As I was writing and as you are reading now, the number of innocent young men and ladies who might be using this technology for the same purpose as Airtel has instructed is unquantifiable. Parents and teachers must wake up!

By logical extension, somebody can also use the same ‘Magic Voice’ to mimic the voice of another person. Or one can select any of the voices provided by Airtel that closely resembles the voice of the person whose voice is to be mimicked. What is the direct consequence here especially to teachers, parents and school authorities?

Fraudsters can use this technology to exploit monies from parents or to convince house masters and mistresses to give external exeat to students. For example, in nearly all boarding schools, students are banned from keeping and using phones. Claiming an emergency has happened, a fraudster may successfully mimic the voice of a student and then call the student’s parents instructing them to send items (including mobile money) to him / her (the student) through that number. Alternatively, guys may pretend as parents / guardians and then call school authorities using ‘Airtel Magic Voice’ pleading with the authorities to allow their wards (especially girls) to come home. The above are just some of the reasons that teachers and school authorities must join parents to compel Airtel to stop its so-called ‘Magic Voice’ service, which has nothing to do with fun.

‘Airtel Magic Voice’ also contributes to making the world an insecure place to live in. The security implications of the advert could not have been manifested at any time other this period when the activities of terrorist organizations such as Boko Haram are at our doorsteps. Just imagine that this technology is exploited by such criminals who may kidnap your child (as they did in their home country, Nigeria) but then call you and pretend as ladies who spotted your missing child. What will be your immediate reaction? You may quickly rush to whichever location the caller claims to be without any preparation because women will naturally not be engaged in child trafficking. You may only reach there to see armed men and the root cause being ‘Magic Voice’.

Furthermore, voice is one of the tools used by police to identify or to locate criminals. Thus, if a telecommunication service exists in which all the thousand and one human voices can be conveniently synchronized into a limited number, it implies that people can no longer be identified via phone call. Again, using Boko Haram as an example, the police may be unable to identify the members because all of them may choose to use only one of the voices provided by ‘Airtel Magic Voice’. Accordingly, the police must act by leading the crusade to compel Airtel to withdraw this package.

What lesson is learnt here? That designated authorities must re-scrutinized ads from any source before they are broadcast. In particular, Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana alongside with its members must extend a watchful eye to Ghanaian films and songs.

Most Ghanaian films are just typically morally bankrupt. Practically, every song including the reggae clips must feature partially naked ladies, shaking their buttocks.Why? And the worrisome aspect is that these immorality-padded films and songs are often advertised immediately before, during or right after major news bulletins.

We have culture and moral values. Let’s cherish them.

Long live Kwame Nkrumah’s Ghana! 020 9101533