On Friday, March 28th, an online newspaper called “Zimbabwe Online” published an article accusing Cogniview, an Israeli startup company, of helping Robert Mugabe rig the Zimbabwean elections. Tendai Biti, secretary general of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party, told journalists in Harare that Cogniview was offering technical support and that “Mugabe and his cronies intend to steal this election through the use of sophisticated software provided by the Israeli company with Mossad (Israeli intelligence agency) connections.”
A lengthy response was published on Cogniview's blog, denouncing the story as blatantly false, and proposing a possible scenario of how their Open Source PDF converter was linked to Zimbabwe's elections. Below are two excerpts from Yoav Ezer's response, From Programmer to Puppet-Master: How I didn't Rig the Zimbabwean Elections with a PDF Converter:
The article continues to claim that my company has secret ties to the Israeli Mossad, and that the accusations came directly from the General Secretary of the MDC, Zimbabwe’s largest opposition party.
Before I go on with the details of the story, here’s my official response … this story is NOT TRUE. In fact it could have only been more fictional if we were accused of using alien technology. Here are some more facts:
* We have no ties with Robert Mugabe’s party. We have never met or dealt in any way with him or any of his people.
* We have no connections to the Israeli Mossad.
* No Cogniview employee has ever been to Zimbabwe.
He continues to write how he thinks his company got caught up in this story:
About a year ago we developed an Open-Source PDF converter called CC PDF converter. This converter (which is available for download for anyone that has an internet connection) allows one to convert anything printable into PDF. It also allows adding a Creative Commons license as the last page of the document. And at the very end of this page there is a link to Cogniview’s website.
I also learned (from the people that called to chastise us) that the voter-roles that were provided to the MDC by Zimbabwean officials were in PDF format and had a link to Cogniview’s website.
My guess is that the people at the MDC wanted to get the voter data in a format they could easily handle (like Excel) and instead got it in a PDF file (that was produced by our converter). They got (justifiably) angry and concocted a story about the Israeli Mossad and my company (this part isn’t justifiable).
Thanks Denis for the link!