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Facebook ban Govt's prerogative, Vodafone chief says

The Chief Executive Officer of Vodafone Samoa, Nofoasaefa Satish Sharma, says the decision to ban Facebook from Samoa is the Government's prerogative.

But he also says that if and when the Government follows through with its plan to ban the social media platform, something else will pop up. Nofoasaefa offered his opinion in response to questions from the Samoa Observer.

“If it is used or not in [the best interests of the...] the people of Samoa [the] Government decides and feels that’s their decision [and] I will support their decision because they are the expert and the right people,” Nofoasaefa said. 

“[The Government] will not take a call that is against the people of Samoa.”

Last month, the Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi, said his Government was looking at banning Facebook because the platform was being used by “faceless” users who were spreading “lies” to “defame” members of the public, including high-profile Government and business officials.

The Government later flagged it was considering extending any prospective ban to other popular social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram. 

It was technologically possible to implement a ban on the social media platforms the Vodafone C.E.O said, while urging people to not share misinformation ahead of next April’s general election. 

According to Nofoasaefa, every social media has a positive and negative side.

“My take on this is it’s an individual’s choice what we use and what not to use,” he said.

The head of rival telecommunications network, Digicel Samoa, Mark Witthuhn,  declined to comment on the proposed ban in a statement sent via email on Monday: "[We offer] no commentary as there is no change. Yes, Facebook is the most popular social media platform used in Samoa."

Vodafone was previously known as Bluesky but this March it was taken over by the global telecommunications giant.

Nofoasaefa said: “Coming onto [...] Facebook, I am not an expert on that [and what exactly [are] the negative [parts] of [that].”

Asked on his view whether the proposed change could impact Vodafone customers, Nofoasaefa said:

“If something gets closed down, something else will open up, so people will keep using [social media] because there are hundreds [of] other things for…but depends upon what purpose you are using [it] for.”

Nofoasaefa also added that other options and are popular with its Vodafone customers include social media platforms such as Netflix and Tik Tok. 

“Let’s say someone watches movies, someone is comfortable with Netflix, if not Facebook then there will [be] some other [platform that...] people will keep on using and wanting to stay connected.

“We do analyse people’s behaviour and see where we can add value, there are people who use data for Netflix. It helps us create ways to give back to the community.”

He said that consumers’ familiarity was a determining factor when it came to their loyalty to social media platforms.

“We get familiarised with some; we get comfortable with some,” he said. 

He added that “Whatsapp” is a leading choice for keeping in contact among Indian consumers, while in the Pacific “Viber” had a greater market share. 

Some internet security experts, such as Microsoft Vice President Troy Hunt, have said that while a ban on Facebook would be relatively easy to impose, consumers’ access to “virtual private network” software would make internet censorship easy to circumvent too. 


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