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Social media giants in Govt. sights

Multinational social media giants would be forced to register business entities in Samoa as part of a Government effort to make them accountable to local laws and regulations. 

The Minister of Communication, Information and Technology, Afamasaga Rico Tupai, revealed the plan in Parliament on Thursday, saying that the foundations for the new regulatory regime had already begun to be laid. 

"There have been laws laid out to register these social media companies within the country," Afamasaga said.

"The Law Reform Commission and [the] Office of the Attorney General [are working to make] these companies - Facebook, Google, Twitter, Instagram and many others - [able to be sued...] making our monitoring work easier."

The Minister admitted that it may be difficult to exert influence on companies of such size, and therefore called upon other countries in the region to band together in an effort to make them submit to regulation. 

"An association of [technology companies] in the Pacific are coming together, plus all of us, Ministers of Communications around the region to stand together so that it is not just 200,000 [people] from Samoa, but together as 10 million or more of the Pacific to take one message," he said. 

"We can attract the attention of these big companies."

The Government has been constantly in contact with major social media companies in efforts to reduce the presence of repulsive, defamatory media online. 

The efforts are being undertaken by the Attorney General's Office and the Ministry of Police, to remove inappropriate online content, including the sharing of graphic photos. 

"You might have noticed during the measles epidemic, there were posts that you saw before that you eventually were unable to see, especially with photos," he said.

"It was easy to bring down these posts when the Office of the Attorney General wrote to Facebook and other social media platforms, as they also [saw] the photos and [could] easily determine and decide that the issues we were raising were true."

Language barriers present a challenge to the American-based companies' moderators, seeking to distinguish between appropriate and inappropriate content, Afamasaga said. 

"[Facebook] is already looking to employ individuals to translate posts and make it easier for them to consider our requests," he said.

"[The Government] are writing and writing constantly, the Office of the Attorney General, Police and Ministry of Communication are the voices of the Government in these companies."

Afamasaga also pointed to the case of King Faipopo and said they had initiated contact with Facebook regarding that matter.

He went on to say that although Samoa now has rules to enforce penalties for online defamation, they will continue to work towards creating a safe and regulated online environment by working with social media companies. 

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