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Despite ban, Samoa joins social media education plan

Despite canvassing a social media ban, Samoa has joined discussions about building a new digital education programme in the Pacific based on Facebook and expected to launch as early as this year.

According to Radio New Zealand, leaders, policymakers and academics from the Pacific met virtually last week to discuss taking steps towards building the programme.

Other Pacific nations included in the first meeting of the Pacific Islands Digital Citizenship and Safety Advisory Group were Fiji, Tonga, New Zealand and Australia.

The new education programme is expected to launch this year and will use Facebook's “We Think Digital” policy to start creating personalised education campaigns for each local community.

Facebook Policy Director Mia Garlick noted that Pacific communities were spending more time online and there had been an increase in the use of social media platforms following the rise of Covid-19 incidence.

Garlick believes the programme would empower local communities to enjoy the benefits of being online, safely and securely.

This comes at a time when the Government is considering the banning of Facebook.

Speaking on his weekly programme with the TV3 two weeks ago, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi said that the Cabinet is discussing the possibility of banning all social media platforms because they can be used to spread misinformation.

The Facebook ban, which initially surfaced in 2018, was recently revisited by the Government due to what they say is the constant use of Facebook by "faceless" users to spread "lies" and "defame" innocent members of the public, including high profile Government and business officials.

Tuilaepa said he is tired of people abusing the site to spread hate speech, bully others and promote false and defamatory claims against the Government.

Experts have since warned that the mooted ban is dangerous, inappropriate for democratic nations, difficult to enforce and could possibly backfire.

To date, countries to ban Facebook completely include China, Iran, Syria, and North Korea. 



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