Papua New Guinea's communications minister has said the government will ban Facebook for a month to weigh its impact on the population. The government is also evaluating the creation of a new state-run social network.
Papua New Guinea's minister for communications announced on Tuesday that the government would block access to Facebook for one month to study its impact on the general public and to root out "fake users."
Minister Sam Basil told the local Post Courier newspaper that the shutdown would allow the government to pinpoint users behind fake accounts, who upload pornography and who post misleading and fake news.
"This will allow genuine people with real identities to use the social network responsibly," Basil said. "We cannot allow the abuse of Facebook to continue in the country."
The move comes despite the fact that less than 10 percent of Papua New Guinea's 8-million-strong population have ready access to the internet, according to the World Bank.
Facebook has come under a barrage of scrutiny from various governments following revelations that it leaked the personal data of some 87 million US users to British data analysis firm Cambridge Analytica.
It is not the first time that Basil has raised concerns over the privacy challenges posed by Facebook. "The national government, swept along by IT globalization, never really had the chance to ascertain the advantages or disadvantages of Facebook, and even educate and provide guidance on the use of social networks like Facebook to PNG users," he said in a statement last month.
A Facebook alternative?
In Tuesday's interview, Basil also indicated that the government would explore the possibility of launching its own social network exclusively for Papua New Guinea citizens. "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," he said.
Papua New Guinea is far from the only country to restrict access to the social networking site. In March, Sri Lanka blocked Facebook and the Facebook-owned instant messaging application WhatsApp for three days in response to posts calling for attacks on Muslims. Last year, the Indian government also imposed a one-month ban on all major social networking in the Kashmir Valley, amid public safety concerns that the site was being misused by "anti-national and anti-social elements" linked to the Pakistan military. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also initiated several social media bans and restrictions in recent years.
However, China, Iran and North Korea remain the only countries to impose and wholesale and indefinite bans on Facebook.