Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi’s perennial nagging about “faceless writers” who use social media, especially Facebook, to attack their unsuspecting victims is a legitimate point.
It’s a point he’s made time and time again during the past few years and this week, he made it once more when he not only accused them of “character assassination” but also comparing them to “murderers” and members of terrorism organisation I.S.I.S.
“People who are using social media to inflict so much hurt are the same as murderers in Arab countries,” Tuilaepa said.
“The only difference is that here they are killing people by assassinating their characters but in Arab countries, they are shooting them with guns.”
Let’s face it, the comparisons are a bit extreme but that’s Tuilaepa for you.
Apparently, the Prime Minister has just returned from London where the issue of cyber security was a major point of discussion at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. While that was going on, Prime Minister Tuilaepa was taking notes and apparently learning a thing or two about cyber bullies.
Now back in Samoa, Tuilaepa is thrilled to finally have learnt that it’s not just Samoa struggling with the issue of faceless writers.
“When it comes to the issue of online technology, all fifty three countries (of the Commonwealth) are affected by social media problems,” he declared.
Tuilaepa said the problems range from character assassinations to many unfounded allegations. That’s when he brought up the point about I.S.I.S.
“These people are like I.S.I.S. in their thinking,” he said. “Their goal is to break up governments. They like to stir up hate, create anxiety, start fights. What it does is that it makes people hate their leaders.”
The Prime Minister added that these people like to find topics that incite emotional responses from their readers.
“They go after sensitive topics like land and the like. So (in London) we were warned to be alert about the many different ways where the enemy is using to attack us to break up governments.
“It is not a good thing, misusing and abuse of communication means that are meant to help development. There are people who are misusing these things to fabricate damaging allegations against other people.”
The Prime Minister’s latest comments add to a long history of his critical remarks against faceless writers who have been using Facebook and other online means to attack his Government. Believe it or not, Tuilaepa has even threatened to block Facebook completely from Samoa.
“Character assassination is worse than murder,” he said. “The thing is that you can see that although the person is alive, he is dead. I thought it was just Samoa where this is happening, but it’s happening to all countries.”
That being the case, so why is P.M. Tuilaepa so worried? Why does he have to make himself look like the biggest bully of them all by continuously calling people names in his crusade to find out who these faceless writers are?
Maybe Prime Minister Tuilaepa should take a leaf from New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s book when it comes to cyber bullying and online battles.
Some three weeks ago, Ardern’s partner, Clarke Gayford, became the subject of rumour and false innuendo on social media – much like a lot of the stuff Prime Minister Tuilaepa and his administration have been accused of in the recent past.
But her response is something every leader should learn from as they grapple with the reality of online and social media where anyone can say anything.
Now listen to Ardern:
“Look, I have nothing further to say on this. It’s just not what I’m here for. It’s not what I’m in politics for and I’ve got a job to do and I’m going to do it.
“To me it doesn’t matter what you call it, and I won’t be pointing any finger of blame to anyone.
“All I know is it’s not why I’m here. It’s not had anything to do with the job that I’m here to do, so I’m just going to keep getting on with it, and I’m going to smile through it as well.”
Well isn’t that wonderful? What a classy response from a classy woman. It encapsulates the idea that if leaders have nothing to worry about, why should they be bothered? Unless what the faceless writers are saying is true?
Have a wonderful weekend Samoa, God bless!