Two interesting developments in relation to the use or the abuse of social media have emerged this week.
The developments are not only a timely intervention, they are absolutely necessary as a reminder to all of us that freedom of opinion and information has its limitations and must be exercised with great care.
In other words, people who enjoy such freedom should remember there are boundaries, which must be respected.
Anything less is illegal and must be held to account, in accordance to the laws that exist to ensure peace, stability and the integrity of justice in this country we call home.
The first development we are referring to surfaced yesterday on the front page of this newspaper under the headline “Families hit with $5000 penalty over Facebook posts.”
The penalty was issued by the Lauli’i Village Council in a bid to buckle the alarming trend we are seeing today where certain users abuse Facebook to incite violence and make derogatory and threatening comments.
Speaking to the Samoa Observer, Village chief Fuamatu Samoa Asuelu said the matter was raised before the Village Council last week and they have decided that enough is enough.
So five families, whose family members were allegedly involved, were penalised. Interestingly enough, Fuamatu pointed out that of the five families affected families; only one family member lives in Samoa.
“These are issues those people overseas need to consider before they go on social media and disrespect the elders of the village,” Fuamatu said.
“We will not allow that. These are high chiefs of the village and we have zero tolerance for such unwelcoming behavior.”
“These social media or Facebook or whatever, should not be made to be abused and for people to use it as a platform, to make derogatory comments and threatening remarks against chiefs in the village of Lauli’i or anyone for that matter.”
“We as the village council have a job to do and that is to keep the peace at the same time, the chiefs of this village will not be disrespected by people who are abusing social media.”
We couldn’t agree more with the Lauli’i Village Council. It’s about time something is done to address an issue we believe is getting out of hand. While social media is extremely useful when it’s used appropriately, we have also witnessed how destructive it can be when it is abused. We are referring to users who deliberately spread misinformation, lies and use fake name pages to abuse innocent and unsuspecting members of the public. This should not be tolerated, at all.
Which is why we welcome the decision by the Lauli’i Village Council. This decision could well be the “made in Samoa” solution to address our social media problems. You see, everyone belongs to a family and every Samoan family comes from a village. When users know that they and their families will be held accountable for what they say, they will likely be more responsible for their actions. Which is what we want.
Social media should be used as a platform to build people and improve the prospects of this country. It should not be abused as a tool to wreak havoc and encourage the pulling down of people and incite violence.
In another related development, the Police have also launched an investigation into an incident where illegal footage taken during Court proceedings was posted on social media. They are also looking at an incident where a photo was taken during the proceedings of the first appearance of the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa ministers charged with failing to file tax returns.
The Ministry of Justice has apparently asked the Police to track down the culprits.
Why is this an important development? Well rules and laws exist for a reason. And if you know anything about Court rules and policies, you cannot do this.
Which means that if people who turn up to Court—of all places—and blatantly ignore the rules in place to protect the sanctity and integrity of the judiciary, what hope do we have that they will respect the law anywhere else?
Tell us what you think.
Have a productive Thursday Samoa, God bless!