Pacific Islands ponder social media clampdowns

​Some Pacific Islands governments are considering limiting access to social networking sites because of inappropriate behaviour.

A digital revolution is underway in the Pacific, but there's concern over a clash between cyber culture and traditional culture.

Mobile phones are now a way of life in the Pacific, but what they're being used for is causing concern, with phone video of groups fighting having been posted online.

The Tongan government is holding community consultations over a possible cyber clampdown. 

It's looking at a total ban on porn sites and selective blocking of young Facebook users after bullying. 

"What we are seeing is an intense period of change. And I guess what's different is that it's not clear who will control that change," says Damon Salesa, Auckland University Director of Pacific Strategy and Engagement.

The Nauru government has completely blocked Facebook, supposedly because it caused tension in families.

Last year in Samoa, a teen was arrested for badmouthing the prime minister on YouTube. 

The family had to pay $6000, two cows and 30 of fish or be banished from the village.

While traditional expectations are one thing, what gets posted is another.

"Notorious examples have been the circulation of inappropriate photos of prominent political figures, or videos in one case. So those have been widely circulated," Salesa said.

Seventeen years ago, there were 12,000 phones in Samoa. Now there are close to 190,000.

"Something has happened that is extraordinary and on a scale we have never seen before in the Pacific," Salesa said.

That's why a group at Auckland University is driving debate and research on the issue.

"It should be seen as an opportunity of  how we can all continue to grow and maintain true to our cultural roots," says Tiresa Po'e, a researcher.

Pacific leaders are now weighing up the benefits of social media, such as building family and community connections, compared to the downside of possibly tearing them apart.