Abuse on Facebook lost in translation in Pacific

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Facebook is growing in both users and regional relevance in the Pacific.

Analysts and human rights groups in the region are pointing to a rise in online abuse, as Pacific communities grapple with translating their culture to the digital meeting house.

Online abuse is not easily detected when local languages are used.

Facebook would not disclose the number of staff per language or dialect but a spokesperson said it had the capacity to review content in over 50 languages, including Samoan.

Samoa’s Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi last week said he had had enough.

He is frustrated by his inability to control relentless attacks against him on Facebook.

In an interview with TV1Samoa last week, Tuilaepa announced he had instructed the Attorney General’s office to begin the extradition process for blogger Malele Paulo, also known as King Faipopo, who lives in Australia.

In a Facebook live video, which has since been viewed 110,000 times, Mr Paulo issued a response: “Come and get me.”

Lani Wendt-Young is an outspoken advocate of LGBTQI rights and critic of child sexual abuse – both contentious issues in conservative Samoa. She said she has faced a torrent of abuse numbering the hundreds of pages since she was targeted by an anonymous Samoan blog with a sizeable Facebook presence.

After several unsuccessful attempts at reporting the comments to Facebook, Wendt-Young said the company relented only when she provided English translations for the abuse in Samoan.

Even if posts are written in English with an apparent Samoan translation below – a common sight in online Pacific communities – it’s often not what it seems, she said.

“The abusers are actually quite crafty. They will write really, really extra-disgusting things in Samoan because they know that obviously people at Facebook aren’t really good at translating.

“So, that’s I think a reason why they are getting away with some of the things they do.”

 

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News category: Asia Pacific.

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