During the past few days, a couple of stories published on the pages of your newspaper were pretty difficult to ignore.
Printed at a time when internet-based crime and abuse is at the forefront of national and international attention as the world grabbles with how to handle cyber crime, the stories were certainly an eye opener for Samoa.
The first story was published in the Weekend Observer under the headline “Child pornography statistics alarming.” Taken from the Cyber Crime conference held in Apia last week, the story highlighted concerns by the Attorney General Lemalu Hermann Retzlaff about child pornography and different ways people are using the internet to scam unsuspecting locals.
“You have some shocking statistics,” Lemalu said. “Some 750, 000 predators at any given time are on the internet looking for ways to access children, access pictures, even pictures that have been innocently put up.”
Now what does that have to do with Samoa?
“Our children in Samoa like to jump in the sea without clothes on,” said Lemalu, “so those are some areas where exploitation happens. Those aspects we need to be prepared for.”
According to the Attorney General, members of the public must be alerted to be on the look out for certain visitors who prey on innocent children in terms of taking photos and videos with the intention of using them as pornography.
“I am quite concerned about the latest statistics that suggests that there are people in Samoa who try to access child pornography. That to me is shocking because we have only just found out.”
The Attorney General has got a legitimate concern – one that must be shared by parents and all members of the community who care about our young children. The fact is we live in a twisted age where certain things are topsy turvy. Some perverts will no doubt look to take advantage of our children’s innocence and friendliness. Which is something everyone must be aware of.
Which brings us to the second story. Published on the front page of Monday’s Samoa Observer, it was titled “Telecommunication companies (T.e.l.c.o.s.) profiting from children accessing porn, says Justice Vui.”
This time, Supreme Court Justice Vui Clarence Nelson raised concerns about the ease with which children can access pornography in Samoa today. He went on to decry the failure by the telecommunication companies to invest in advocacy and awareness programmes to warn children of the dangers of the phones they have.
“Children accessing pornography online is a global issue, just like Samoa and the internet providers are making millions from the data purchased using their network,” he said.
“But they should be held accountable and they too should invest money in combating these problems.”
“Do we hear the network companies talking about funding anti-pornography programmes? They are not only internet providers but its commercial company and they are making a lot of money out of it. They are not doing this for any other reasons other than to make money. It is profit driven.”
So what’s the solution?
Well according to Justice Vui, telecommunication companies and internet service providers should be required to divert a portion of their revenue to fund advocacy and awareness programmes to highlight the dangers of children accessing porn on these devices.
“How about sponsoring an anti-pornography campaign so there are measures that can be taken?”
We couldn’t agree more.
The point is that with every good development, there are always negative sides.
In this case, it’s good to have visitors to our shores but we must be mindful that not all of them have good motives. Among the thousands we welcome every year are perverts and pedophiles that will look to take advantage of Samoa’s environment of friendliness and casual openness.
As for mobile phones and internet technology, what’s happened is that so many of us have become so caught up in the hype of technology we have ignored some fundamental rules when it comes to guarding our children. At the same time, Justice Vui has made an extremely valid point that companies profiting from providing these services should also feel a sense of moral responsibility to highlight the damage these things are capable of.
What do you think?
Have a great Thursday Samoa, God bless!