Papua New Guinea to Ban Facebook for a Month in Bid to Stamp out Fake Users, Harmful Content & Misinformation

Ever since news of the Cambridge Analytical scandal first broke, Facebook has been on the receiving end of some widespread and truly sincere criticism, with many turning away from the platform altogether out of fear of their privacy being compromised. Over in Papua New Guinea however, the government are taking a rather more drastic approach.

The country’s Communication Minister, Sam Basil, announced this week that Facebook and its associated services will be banned through Papua New Guinea for the duration of one month in an effort to root out fake users, harmful content, and the spread of misinformation, among other cited issues. During this time, the government will partake in research and analysis of the platform and its use, using this data to shape future policy.

Mr Basil told the Post Courier, “The time will allow information to be collected to identify users that hide behind fake accounts, users that upload pornographic images, users that post false and misleading information on Facebook to be filtered and removed. This will allow genuine people with real identities to use the social network responsibly.

“The [Cyber Crime 2016] Act has already been passed, so what I’m trying to do is to ensure the law is enforced accordingly where perpetrators can be identified and charged accordingly. We cannot allow the abuse of Facebook to continue in the country. I will now work closely with the Police for them to be properly trained and informed to fully enforce the Cyber Crime Act.”

Beyond the ban, Mr Basil also hinted that the PNG government may go so far as to create their own alternative platform to take Facebook’s place. He stated, “We can also look at the possibility of creating a new social network site for PNG citizens to use with genuine profiles as well.

“If there need be then we can gather our local applications developers to create a site that is more conducive for Papua New Guineans to communicate within the country and abroad as well.”
The timescale for this ban does seem rather strange; if Facebook as a platform is so harmful then what do they hope to change in a single month? Moreover, why is a shutdown even necessary if their intention is simply to conduct research and analysis which can be achieved while the site is live? Surely a live site would enable easier and more reliable research? Maybe in time the answers to these questions will become clear, but for now we can only wait to see what transpires.

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