Papua New Guinea banning Facebook for a month to conduct research

29 May 2018

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at a press conference. Image: Frederic LeGrand – COMEO/Shutterstock

The government in Papua New Guinea wants to examine Facebook’s impact on the country.

Papua New Guinea is to ban Facebook for a month to study the effect of the social network on its population.

Sam Basil, the communications minister for the country, said the move will make it easier to get research and analysis on how the platform is being used and who is using it.

A total ban

Basil told the Post Courier newspaper: “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,” he said.

Last month, Basil commented on the platform and its establishment in Papua New Guinea, saying: “The national government, swept along by IT globalisation, never really had the chance to ascertain the advantages or disadvantages [of Facebook] and even educate and provide guidance on use of social networks like Facebook to PNG users.”

The minister had previously raised concerns in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, noting the apparent risks to personal data stemming from use of the network.

Creating a separate site

According to Basil, the government is also considering creating a new social networking site specifically for citizens of the country. “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 investigation will look at the effects Facebook has on “time consumption and productivity of users – especially school-aged children and employees – and, of course, the wider issue of cybersecurity and cybercrime”, according to Basil.

Papua New Guinea enacted a cybercrime act in 2017 and, although it received plaudits for focusing on network and data security, some people are concerned it could create an environment where censorship thrives. Defamatory content, offensive publications and inciting unrest can all be punished by up to 25 years in jail and some are worried these penalties will be doled out to those who criticise the government in PNG.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at a press conference. Image: Frederic LeGrand – COMEO/Shutterstock

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects