The reaction to the recent data scandals that have embroiled Facebook have varied. Some people have continued on like normal, some have curbed their usage while others have taken more drastic steps like completely stopping using the platform. This has been, for the most part, up to the individual but that may not be an option for Facebook’s users in one nation, Papua New Guinea.

One month ban in Papua New Guinea

The government of Papua New Guinea has proposed blocking Facebook’s usage for one month in the island nation. The communications minister said that it was an effort to identify fake user profiles and to identify pornography and false information that is disseminated on the platform. The ban will also allow the government to analyze how Facebook is involved with cybercrime within the country. The minister also stated that the nation may even try to develop its own social media platform in Facebook’s place.

About Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea occupies the eastern half of the island of New Guinea as well as several offshore islands just north of Australia and shares a border with Indonesia. It is one of the most culturally diverse nations in the world with 852 different spoken languages and it is also one of the most rural. Papua New Guinea is also one of the least explored pieces of land on the planet as there are uncontacted tribes living in the interior as well as what are believed to be potentially hundreds of unknown species of plants and animals. About 8 million people live in Papua New Guinea and it is believed that only about 10% of them have access to the Internet with most of those people residing in the capitol and principal city of Port Moresby.

The nation was claimed as part of the British Empire in 1884 as well as by the Germans and was divided between the two. Following Germany’s defeat in World War I the League of Nations made it a complete British possession. The island saw fierce fighting between the Japanese and the Australians and US during World War II with approximately 215,000 men dying during the four year campaign. Papua New Guinea was granted independence from Australia in 1975 though it remains a part of the Commonwealth of Nations with Queen Elizabeth II as its titular head of state. The country was in the news in 2018 when a magnitude 7.5 earthquake hit the country killing at least 31 people.

An extreme and controversial step?

This is of course an extreme step to take for any nation and one that is almost unthinkable here in the United States. As bad as Facebook has behaved would you willingly put your private information in the hands of the government? Hopefully not. Considering the small number of Internet users in the country this is almost the ideal proving ground for an endeavour like this but this is not something that most people feel the government should dip its toes into.

Will this succeed? The ban covers one month and has not been implemented yet so no one knows. The proposal has led to outrage across in Papua New Guinea and around the globe. The ban’s detractors feel like the government is taking concerns seen in other nations and transferring them to their own country in an effort to block free speech. Many also believe that the government’s corruption is being exposed on Facebook and that the move is to simply shut those people up (could this be the fake news referred to earlier?). It would be interesting to see if there is a marked lowering of cybercrime in the country and if so that may not bode well for Facebook in general. Of course to develop an alternative will take considerably longer than one month so Papua New Guineans, especially the under-30 crowd with whom Facebook is extremely popular, will be using Facebook for the foreseeable future.

This would not be the first time that Facebook would be banned in a country. The Pacific Island nation of Nauru banned Facebook in 2015 because of concerns over the amount of pornography found on the platform. That ban lasted for three years and was lifted earlier this year. China, North Korea and Iran have also banned Facebook.

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