Why Papua New Guinea is Banning Facebook

Known for its reefs, corals and tribes that were known to practice cannibalism, Papua New Guinea might not be the first country you think of when it comes to upholding online regulations. However, the Pacific island, which is home to eight million people, made headlines this week for just that.

On May 29, the country’s Communication Minister Sam Basil announced that the popular social media platform Facebook would be banned for a month. The move is part of the government’s crackdown in tracking users who post pornographic content and false information.

Small Country, Big Ethics
While this might seem a large concern, only 10% of people in Papua New Guinea have internet access. This compares to 87% of people in Ireland, where Irish domains are popular for local and personal business.

During the month-long hiatus, the country will explore abuse of the network.

Speaking to local newspaper Post-Courier, Minister Basil said: “The time will allow information to be collected to identify users that hide behind fake accounts, users that upload pornographic images and users that post false and misleading information.”

His comments also alluded to the country starting its own social network, explaining: “If 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.”

Not the First Ban
This is of course not the first time Facebook has been banned. In 2009, China blocked Facebook following riots that saw activists using the site. While in 2006, it was banned in North Korea along with Twitter and YouTube. The network is also one of 500 websites banned in Iran, over strict censorship law.

Facebook has been under great scrutiny in recent months, following the Cambridge Analytical scandal. Since then, the site has informed more than 45,000 Irish users, some who have domain names in Ireland, that their data may have been shared with the company.

Keen to restore the company’s reputation, its founder and CEO Mr Zuckerberg said to a US congress: “It was my mistake, and I’m sorry. I started Facebook, I run it, and I’m responsible for what happens here.”

It will be interesting to follow the Facebook ban in Papua New Guinea to see the outcome of the experiment, and if other countries indeed choose to follow.

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