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Facebook Ban is Seriously Considered Following Defamation Against the Royal Family

Radio & TV Tonga, Nuku’alofa, 16/08/2019

One of the fastest-growing threats in our country’s security right now is happening in cyberspace. The internet opens up a whole world of opportunity to users, and unfortunately, some of that use can be extremely damaging. With just a click of a button, one destroys a reputation, and wars can ensure taking everyone it touches down with it.

Therefore what is the solution? Is the solution to let people destroy each other? Alternatively, should the extremism of the content be met with an equal and more impacting extreme response – one that punishes all for just a few who are ruining the lot?

Moreover, let’s talk about media bias. Media bias occurs daily, affecting, and swaying nations in one fell swoop without facts and an opportunity for fair representation of both parties. It leaves us with what we have now. It leaves a country in turmoil over cybercrime that leave one side blaming the other, hindering a nation from moving forward.

We are in the Kingdom of Tonga. An island group which has citizens very proud of being the only Polynesian Kingdom left in the Pacific. We honor our King and his role in making this country great. Not one of us, regardless of political party, should tolerate any arbitrary accusations or threat against the King’s character.

Let us observe the obvious. The very government that is being blamed for sending threatening messages to the King on Facebook, is threatening to ban the social media mogul Facebook — the very source it is using to make the threats. Now, it does not take a genius to realize that these threats are not coming from a party which prides itself on democratic values and due process.

The threats are from, none other than, those who choose to cause division and strife in a country that only wants to move towards a growing economy, preservation of culture, and a community that can still be called a friendly people.

These destructive people are using a strategy called psychological projection. It is an action that creates blindness in narratives that affect how we perceive situations and react to events. These people are a poison to our society. Instead of allowing both the Kingdom and the political party to come to a median in the proper political manner, they choose destruction.

Little do these cyber criminals know that the truth shall prevail. Is a Facebook ban the answer? In a country where one news article can directly impact the lives of the people, the options for a remedy are few and far between. The gravity of what was posted on Facebook forces leaders to possibly take drastic measures.

We understand that there are other news sources providing information to the masses, yet we want to provide the facts, some are to the contrary of what has previously been reported:

– According to government sources, It was a recommendation from the Attorney General and Privy Council to the Prime Minister and His Cabinet to do something about the matter.

– The Cabinet is expecting a report from a working group tasked with finding a solution to minimize the spread of the hateful and abusive comments spread on social media. The report from MEIDECC and associate ministries about the issue in question will be submitted to cabinet today. The working group consists of the Ministry of Police, the Office of the Attorney General and the Ministry of Information (MEIDECC).

– From this report, the government will be deciding on how to proceed with addressing this grave issue.

– Enforcing a ban on the social media site, Facebook, in the whole of Tonga remains an option. According to the Police Minister Māteni Tapueluelu, the total ban is being considered due to the hurtful comments and images being shared on the social media site targeted at His Majesty the King. Additionally, Facebook adheres to strict procedures of investigation on defamatory material, which may result in lengthy processes that prevent the Government of Tonga from responding promptly to deter further damage from being done.

– The Government of Tonga has no interest in winning or losing any perceived “online war” with the monarchy. Free speech and constructive criticism is the right of the people and an avenue that can always be used to improve governance practices. In an exclusive interview with the Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pōhiva, he recalls receiving abusive and harmful comments throughout his 30-year career. Despite the negative impacts, he never let it deter him from standing for what he believed in. Accusing the government of banning Facebook due to the criticism of his tenure in government, is not the case and never has been. The government is only seeking to find a swift remedy to any threat against His Majesty the King and to deter any cybercriminals from continuing to cause strife in the Kingdom of Tonga.

– The Government of Tonga also agrees that a total ban on Facebook is a heavy-handed approach since the majority of active and productive account users in Tonga would have to pay the price for a small group. However, until Facebook returns with the information to bring about prosecution to the owner of the small group, these slanderous and disdainful unfiltered attacks will keep pouring in damaging the Tongan Way of life — often called Vā Faka-Tonga.

– Piveni Piukala, a board Director for Tonga Cable Limited, said the group is considering asking Facebook to install backdoors on local servers so the government can monitor accounts. Piukala emphasized that people are free to write whatever they think and want, but they have a responsibility to their fellow citizens to guard themselves and the country against such rhetoric. 

– Mapa Ha’ano Taumalolo, Clerk to Parliament, has raised questions about the accusations against Lautala Tapueluelu, the Police Minister Māteni Tapueluelu’s wife, who was accused of the pro-democratic pages which spoke lies against the throne.

– The two pages being investigated, Mo’oni mo Totonu (Truth and Right) and My Tongan, came from an IP address “outside” of Tonga, ruling out the possibility that the messages derived from anywhere and from anyone in Tonga.

– An apology letter was issued to Lautala Tapueluelu, Police Minister Māteni Tapueluelu’s wife, following the accusation of her being behind the horrific messages on Facebook.

It is clear that attacks on anyone online are abusive in nature. They hurt, they divide, and they torment not only those directly affected, but to others all around like a cancer.

Instead of causing a divide between the people, this incident has brought the Tongan people together, putting their political views aside. We can all agree that these destructive allegations against the Hau E Fonua or the Victor of the Nation have no place whatsoever, anywhere in the Kingdom of Tonga.

This abuse of the internet to attack people, in general, has no place in Tonga. It has to be put to a stop.

To meet the threats and accusations from those behind the dark masks, our leaders, military leaders, policymakers, and law enforcement must take the necessary steps to ensure the safety of His Majesty the King of Tonga and the peace amongst the Tongan people.

© Radio and Television Tonga News