Samoan hits back at New Zealand’s Netsafe

By Ivamere Nataro ,

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Lani Wendt-Young, one of the most prolific Samoan writers of this generation.

Lani Wendt-Young, one of the most prolific Samoan writers of this generation. (Photo: NZ Society of Authors)

Samoan Lani Wendt Young says New Zealand’s independent non-profit online safety organisation Netsafe is useless as it does not have regulatory powers.

Speaking at the 2018 Trans-Tasman Netsafe Crossroads Conference held in Auckland, New Zealand recently, she said internet giants such as Facebook did not recognise it as an equal partner in building safe online spaces.

Giving her own experiences of being subject to online abuse, Lani said Netsafe was receptive to her problem and filed a complaint with the website host provider to have the abusive content removed. 

“They were unsuccessful. They filed with Facebook to have abusive content removed. Facebook refused. Netsafe appealed. Facebook agreed and shut down the lead abusers and their anonymous pages. 

“But it was a temporary respite only because the pages appealed and Facebook put them back up within a few weeks, only this time, they were more cocky and assured of their untouchability.

“When it comes to stopping abusers, Netsafe is useless because it has no regulatory power whatsoever. 

Internet giants like Facebook don’t recognize them as being an equal partner in building safe online spaces. Netsafe cannot punish people for their actions online, or force them to remove harmful content,” she said. 

In her opinion, Ms. Young said the current system does not work, especially when one is a brown woman. 

“We should all be gravely concerned about how the system is supposed to be working for our brown youth and those who have far fewer resources than I do, those who will never get an invite to speak on a panel and could never afford a ticket to attend a conference like this. 

“We have heard that People of Color are disproportionately affected by online abuse, but look around you, there’s so few of us here participating in these vital conversations or making the decisions that will affect us. We have heard that only 30 percent of those who are abused online, report it, and that we need to de-stigmatise asking for help. 

“But my experience with reporting abuse and asking for help – has shown that those in positions of power and online ‘authority’ have very little concrete help to give. So what’s the point? Until fatal gaps in the current complaints process are addressed, than it will continue to be the marginalised and most vulnerable amongst us who will suffer,”  she added. 

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