It may seem harmless but...
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.