Country Of 8 Million To Ban Facebook For A Month, Says Report

(Photo: ALAIN JOCARD/AFP/Getty Images)

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Eric Lieberman Deputy Editor
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Facebook users in a country with a population of roughly eight million will soon no longer be able to access the social media platform, according to Papua New Guinea’s Communications Minister Sam Basil.

The shutdown, first reported by the Post-Courier based in the Oceanian nation, is expected to last a month.

“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,” Basil said. “This will allow genuine people with real identities to use the social network responsibly.”

During that period, the government will continue to explore establishing its own social media site that could serve as a permanent substitute for the U.S.-based tech giant and its services.

“We can also look at the possibility of creating a new social network site for PNG citizens to use with genuine profiles as well,” Basil continued, according to the Post-Courier. “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.”

Basil also said the blocking of Facebook, an apparent punishment, is in line with the Cyber Crime Act, legislation enacted in 2016.

Southeast Asia, and the general area in which Papua New Guinea is loosely part of, has been very critical of Facebook in recent months, like what it allegedly overlooks and what people do with its features and capabilities. The tech company was blamed for stoking hate in Myanmar after users posted hateful content, specifically those against the Rohingya people, a Muslim ethnic group that have been fleeing the country in the face of genocide.

A top official in Indonesia, the world’s fourth biggest country, threatened to close off Facebook for the whole country in April following a series of events and revelations that were damning, or portrayed the company as one that doesn’t care about the importance of online privacy. (RELATED: Pakistani Man Sentenced To Death For Facebook ‘Blasphemy’)

A mother of a 23-year-old Vietnamese law student said in 2017 that her son was essentially kidnapped and detained by police after he shared anti-government material on the internet. An activist, Tran Hoang Phuc, along with two others, were reportedly sentenced for six to eight years in jail for the dissemination of “anti-state propaganda.”

Facebook is officially forbidden in North Korea, Iran and China. Papua New Guinea could be the next country to completely block it.

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Eric Lieberman