Misinformation on the Social Media: a Fiji and International Problem

It may seem harmless but...


Opinion By Crosbie Walsh

The social media — Facebook, Tweet and the blogs— provide an increasingly  important source of information and misinformation. Some 300,000 people, or 34% of the population, already have internet connections in Fiji and the number is growing.

Anyone can say anything, or draw anything,  about anyone and anything in the social media. There is no obligation to source or verify information, and many comments are one- line gut reactions that seem to express the prejudices, hatred,  fears and little-considered views of the writers. The most blatant racist, sexual, personal, political and religious view are published.

There is no means of checking the credentials of those making comments. A person who believes the Americans did not put on a man on the moon  is provided with a stage as large as that of the scientist who can prove it.

Those running these internet sites are, or should be, obliged to remove personal, libellous and factually wrong postings but they seldom do so.   The boundaries between their legal and moral obligations are blurred, and the more outrageous the comments, the more people seem to be attracted to reading them.

The issue is much, much  larger than the current situation in Fiji. Think of the ever increasing number of people with access to the internet. But it is especially important to Fiji at the present time with elections only 27 days away.

World-wide, the social media may soon swamp and block out and negate more responsible reporting.   It can be used to protect human rights  but it can also be used to abuse them. This is where I would have looked for international guidance, from governments, international agencies and the media.

The opportunity to comment on the on line versions of newspapers provides another outlet for the views of John Citizen. Although this is a lesser issue. because it is more moderated, a principled stance by the media and its watchdog is also needed.

But, the more potentially dangerous sources of misinformation that can cause less understanding and tolerance between people, is the social media,

I am surprised that those who purport to be concerned about freedom of the press have been silent on this burgeoning issue of how to control the misuse of the social media.

If you do not believe me, here are some current examples of internet postings on Fiji.  mostly from Facebook.

"The prize khaiyum wants is Fiji. And he will stop at nothing to get it." -- John Manson. This folowed an earlier comment that the Syrian army (sic!) was coming to Fiji to enforce Muslim law.

":The indians are the reason this is happening.....its because they wanted to take over fiji that all this started.....get rid of the indians." -- Makylar Williams.

"I have Fijian in my blood so I know whats best for my county." -- Makylar Williams.

"Because only hundreds (sic!) of innocent lives were killed 8 years ago and that doesn't matter to us because none of them were our family, is that what you mean crosbie? O.o."
-- Sakura Lee, who lives in Tokyo, replying  to my comment  that human rights abuses (not deaths) are being reported as if they were still happening.

"Stop buying bread from Hot Bread Kitchen, owner a known racist and coup supporter, SOPELPA Candidate Mere Samisoni has been rumored to have been using beef and pork lard to spite Indo-Fijians." -- Pilsner Templeton.

"Army and Police refuse Bainimarama directive to arrest Ro Teimumu Kepa
Bainimarama's days are numbered. RFMF not supportive of Bainimarama.
From a friend:
"As we speaking message received Police ordered by PM to arrest Ro Teimumu for supporting Qarase's perceived comments. Police contacted RFMF n was told not to and also told in clear terms that there is a change of Command at QEB. Period!!!" -- Rajendra Chaudhry, two days ago.


A nicer one to end with.
"I hve spent most of my time with my itauki bros...n they always hve treats me like their little bro...ate topois with them...n beka too..silarivi...once pressd with spoon it flew out of plate...so I call it slippery since thn...vinaka taciqus." --   Jon Shukla.


Comments

Mark S said…
> I am surprised that those who purport to be concerned about freedom of the press have been silent on this burgeoning issue of how to control the misuse of the social media.

I don't understand why you would be surprised by that. Why would those who fight for freedom of the press be anything but supportive of the freedom to speak(or comment/post) freely.

I support freedom of speech. I am glad that those terrible human beings have the right to speak freely and to air their racist comments freely.

Freedom of speech is freedom of speech. Not freedom of nice speech, or freedom of politically correct speech.
Anonymous said…
Thanks Croz for highlighting a very important issue. It is really disturbing to see how much attention anti government social media and blogs really get. Look at the number of comments every stupid posting on C4.5 triggers. Hundreds of them. Why are people not com in out in support of our beloved leaders? Why are they constantly claiming that we live in a human rights abusing dictatorship where freedom of speech is oppressed by draconic degrees that have been imposed on the population without consultation. Why are people reporting that our AG wants to terminate Fijian culture and tradition? That he wrote something to that effect as a young man in an academic paper can't be held against him forever. And look at the fuss that is made about the Police Commissioner not investigating the so called torture video. Why do the bloggers not ask if the convict did not deserve what he got? And why do the regime opponents constantly claim that our great PM is a bumbling moron with no education and no brain, when he shows every day that he is an eloquent debater who has taken on every challenger in public discourse in front of the nation? It is a disaster and I strongly recommend to clamp down on these activists who want to transform Fiji into a dictatorship of the proletariat. We should learn from our new friend China, a country that has an excellent handle on social media.
Anonymous said…
Answer to all these issues are IRRESPONSIBLE behaviour by the bloggers and the contributors. Bloggers have the responsibility to ensure that they invigilate their sites to ensure that inciteful comments especially along racial lines are removed. If administrators do not include these sorts of immature comments, contributors won't make them-plain and simple. There are ways in which this sensitive issue could be discussed without direct slurring and outright racist outbursts but Fijians in general still aren't there yet. In saying that, handful of Fijians could conduct themselves in such debate without letting emotions get the better of them.
Whilst I will defend the right of anti-regime bloggers to express their views through a forum such as C4.5, the conduct of the site administrator for allowing racial slurs, swearing and immature comments to be included is embarrassing to say the least. I as a I'Taukei look at the comments in disbelief because 90% of their contributors are I'Taukei like me who purport themselves to be strong Christians and yet "in the same breathe" freely abuse others who don't agree with them. The level of derogatory remarks in C4.5 is the worst I have ever seen in any blog sites worldwide.
I have stated on here in the past that as a I'Taukei I am absolutely proud of my country. I have had the privilege of representing Fiji in two different fields (i.e through sports and work) but by jolly, I hang my head in shame when I read some of those comments being hurled by my people who are supposedly Christians. In the words of my deceased father ( a church minister for 42 years), "Na lotu e sega ni ka ni vosavosa, E cakacaka taki" ( Being a christian is not about talking, it is about setting examples).
Anonymous said…
Who in Fiji had ever heard of a blog site until Fiji's fourth Military Coup in 2006 ? I for one had never been to one. Frank and team dig the biggest promotion for these sites by shutting down (or shutting up) all opposition through the normal media.
Anonymous said…
How quaint to think we should all be nice and polite now. Was the military polite when it took over the country in 2006. Lets not forget that to even utter the word coup meant you could be taken up to the barracks and beaten up. It is only all these years later that the PM is confident he will win the election that he uses the term himself. Arrr how things have changed.
Anonymous said…
For some reason I can only post as anonymous.

But this is Shazzer aka John Manson

Croz as ever your bias shows.

Nowhere in this post do you talk about the racist comments and posts from the pro Bainimarama supporters. Look no further than Gurunaya Iswara.

I would also point out that the mainstream media has not carried any anti Bainimarama letters, opinion pieces or stories until very recently. And still everything is heavily edited. Just look at Wadan Narseys articles on his blog and the same articles edited in the Fiji Times. This is done purely to save the paper from fines under the media decree, a decree which also means that opposition speeches and press releases cannot be printed without heavy editing.

So Facebook and the blogs are the only options we have. The fact there is so much anti Bainimarama sentiment on social media that you felt the need to post about it shows the 86% support of the Fiji Sun may not be as real as we are lead to believe.

As for my own post you mentioned. I did indeed say “And he will stop at nothing to get it.”

I followed it up with the following context.

He has amended the electoral decree 3 times to remove strong opposition candidates.

He has used his discredited court system to remove opposition party leaders.

He has used the constitution his decrees and his amendments to make it as hard as possible for all opposition political parties and candidate.

For the General Secretary of a political party to be in a position to amend the electoral decree less than 30 days before the election is indefensible, especially when it was done to remove a strong rival candidate. I think even you have to concede that point.

So yes I do stand by my statement HE WILL STOP AT NOTHING TO WIN!

As for the Syria comment I cannot find any record of it and I have steered away from both race and religion. I personally do not think they have a place in politics.
Anonymous said…
Come on, this is Fiji. Corporal punishment has been dished out by the chiefs since for hundreds of years. Buturaki is fully accepted and the actions of the military were fully justified. Look at how so called democracy deal with their misfits: The police in the USA is not afraid to execute a black hooligan in the middle of daylight and South Africa knows how to deal with striking workers. We had a few deaths in custody and a bit of torture, but hey you have to see the wider picture. When our PM's life was threatened by mutineers he had to run down the Cassava fields and it is only natural that you want to get back to those who oppose you. By and large we live in a wonderful free country where the press is only moderately regulated by the media degree and as long as you support our leaders, nothing bad will ever come your way. Be pragmatic, support Khaiyum's Fiji First and you will be richly rewarded.
Anonymous said…
We the i taukei do not want to live like the natives of Australia....to put it simply. NZ i taukei have come a long way....Whaitangi Treaty.........Australia......Fiji I Taukei.........please let us move forward, we do not want to be displaced in our own ONLY country
Anonymous said…
@AnonymousMonday, August 25, 2014 at 10:00:00 AM GMT+12

There is a huge difference between the experiences of I'Taukei in Fiji versus Maoris in New Zealand. It is similar to comparing "chalk and cheese" mate.
Anonymous said…
@ Crosbie walsh ...i cannot believe how biased you have been, you have choosen my comments and others similar but have choosen to turn a blind eye on what the indians and pro indians supporters have been saying against fijians, Mr Walsh, you sub-conscious has decided for you to turn a blind eye, whatever you your sub-conscious does on your behalf never lies. It is so sad that a university professor with your status is biased and has clearly shown the world on your one sidedness, its a real shame indeed. ( im sharing this post around so everyone can know what kinda person you are,.....by the way this is Makylar Williams......and the page in which you got that from was from the facebook page "Exposing stupidity in fiji" ( the one with 10,000+ likes)....the pages administrators are always racist towards fijians (itaukei)....so we all know which race the admins are from.....so you also a regular visitor to that page, and your always turn a blind eye, on what the admins are doing and the supporting comments from the same side,....you choose to ignore all that but picked up the defensive comments and put it up as Media misinformation,....please Mr Crosbie walsh..... your actions have just spoken louder than your words......
Crosbie Walsh said…
Makylar. We can only be responsible for our own actions. You for your racist comments blaming Indo-Fijians for Fiji's ills and saying they should be got rid of; me for not citing more examples of racism by Indo-Fijians of which there is much on the social media. The main purpose of my article was to raise the question of intolerance on the social media. Had it been centred only on one expression of intolerance —racism—I would have provided more Indo-Fijian examples.
Anonymous said…
this article needs alot of correction and the post is siding one side only and not both.. @cros sir would you kindly please clarify all comments instead of one side please?

Popular posts from this blog

Lessons from Africa

Fijian Holdings Scandal: Betrayal by their trusted sons

The Ratu Tevita Saga, Coup4.5, Michael Field, the ANU Duo, and Tonga