Popular social networking site Facebook is set to be temporarily banned in Papua New Guinea in an attempt for its government to identify and deal with fake users, and to study the effect the ban will have on the nation’s people.
The country, located to the north of Australia in the southwest Pacific, announced that the site will be banned for a period of one month. According to Sam Basil, the Communications Minister of Papua New Guinea, this nationwide hiatus of the site will give analysts the chance to conduct research into who is using the platform and how, allowing them to find those using the site inappropriately.
The ban comes in a time where the nation’s officials have expressed concerns around the population’s wellbeing, productivity and security. One of the main purposes of the research is to enforce the Cyber Crime Act of 2006 more effectively. Should national officials deem the site to be incompatible with the country’s cyber crime laws, the government could look into the feasibility of creating a new social network that will be safer and better for its citizens.
User privacy and safety on the site has been a big talking point in recent months, with the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which saw user data leaked to a private company, making headlines earlier in the year. In Europe, the new GDPR regulations have just been introduced that change the way companies can hold and share data.
Papua New Guinea is not the first nation to shut down the world’s largest social site. The likes of Turkey, Iran, China and North Korea have all previously blocked the platform either permanently or temporarily for many reasons, with many of them being politically charged or for censorship. However, Papua New Guinea would be the first country to give a timeframe on its ban, and to do it for research purposes.
The country has an estimated population of eight million, and only around 10-12% of this figure has internet access, meaning that the nation has one of the lowest rates of internet usage in the world.
The Papua New Guinean government has yet to announce the dates that the ban will be imposed from and to. Furthermore, a representative from Facebook has reached out to the Pacific nation so that the company can understand its concerns in relation to the platform.