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Fagasa is first local village to impose a fine for Facebook posts

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Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The Council of Chiefs for Fagasa village has imposed a $2,000 fine on a family for Facebook posts that stem from a feud that was fueled by social media posts.

Samoa News was contacted yesterday by a concerned citizen — who does not currently live in Fagasa but whose family is deeply rooted there. According to the caller, under the US Constitution, a person is entitled to Freedom of Speech and Facebook posts are an exercise of that right.

Samoa News understands that the issue stems from an incident late last year whereby certain individuals were fined $1,000 each following a war of words with members of a certain family.

The situation snowballed and resulted in the penalties affecting the children of those who were fined. The kids were allegedly banned from participation in church activities and those who were penalized were stripped of their positions within the church.

The female who was fined $2,000 is said to have made a 'general' comment on Facebook, to which another Fagasa villager responded. The reaction set off a dialogue filled with insulting comments and name calling aimed at each other's mother.

The caller told Samoa News they can't understand why only one was penalized and fined, and the other party was not. "If they are going to fine the girl, they should also fine the person she was going back and forth with," the caller said.

Samoa News understands that during an emergency meeting called two weeks ago, Fagasa villagers were warned that if any of their relatives residing off island post any comments on Facebook directed at any one of the ranking matai or village people, the chief (matai) of their clan — living in Fagasa — will have to cough up whatever fine is imposed. The amount of $5,000 was mentioned.

Penalizing people for Facebook posts started late last year in independent Samoa, when the Lauli’i village council penalized five families and hit them hard with a $5,000 penalty fee for allegedly making derogatory and threatening posts targeting chiefs in the village, according to the Samoa Observer.

According to the report, of the five affected families, only one family member currently lives in Samoa. 

“These are issues those people overseas need to consider before they go on social media and disrespect the elders of the village. 

“We will not allow that. These are high chiefs of the village and we have zero tolerance for such unwelcoming behavior,” a ranking village chief was quoted as saying.

“These social media or Facebook or whatever, should not be made to be abused and for people to use it as a platform, to make derogatory comments and threatening remarks against chiefs in the village of Lauli’i or anyone for that matter. 

“We as the village council have a job to do and that is to keep the peace at the same time, the chiefs of this village will not be disrespected by people who are abusing social media.”