Electoral Commission hits pause on Facebook broadcast

Samoa’s General Election broadcast by the Office of the Electoral Commissioner (O.E.C.) has been marred by the indefinite pause of a Facebook live feed after violent, abusive comments were made in response to the online broadcast of official ballot counting.

The O.E.C. shut down its live Facebook feed, calling it a “pause” just before 7pm on Monday night, on day one of start of the Final Count of ballots. 

The announcement was made in a Facebook status and on Twitter, where the O.E.C. has most engagement on social media. 

“Please be advised that the Facebook Live is paused for the time being due to excessive abusive and harassive commentary by members of the public during live feeds,” the announcement states.

“The Facebook Live feed is a courtesy service to inform members of the public; however the language used such as hate speech and online violence towards officials while doing their job is now a cause for concern and a distraction while we conduct the work of officiating results of the 2021 General Election.” 

Ballots from seven polling stations were scheduled for counting on Monday.

The O.E.C. began the official count Monday morning with the Vaimauga No.1, Vaimauga No.2, Vaimauga No.3 and Vaimauga No.4 electoral constituencies.

Votes cast at the Faleata No.1, Faleata No.2 and Faleata No.4 polling stations were also scheduled for counting on Monday. 

Election officials had previously made clear that the counts that took place last week were preliminary, or unofficial, counts that occurred at each polling station.

This week, the official count that will decide each seat in Parliament is happening at the O.E.C. Headquarters, located at the Multi-purpose Gymnasium in Tuanaimato.

The pause on the Facebook live feed was met with mixed reactions from commenters, some expressing anger, some offering suggestions on how to mute the negative comments and others congratulating the O.E.C. for their patience and hard work. 

The O.E.C. apologized to members of the public who have been civil and courteous on their Facebook page.

“We apologize for the inconvenience this may cause to our Facebook followers who are otherwise courteous in their interactions with this page,” the Electoral Commission said.

The 2021 General Elections have been widely lauded for its social media engagement and transparency, with ongoing live broadcasts since pre-polling began last Monday, 5 April. 

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