The Papua New Guinea government plans to shut down Facebook in the country for a whole month. The government said it plans to use this time to research how its citizens are using Facebook as well as how fake news spreads on the platform.
The communication minister, Sam 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.
The minister also said last month that because the government has been swept along by IT globalization, it has had no time to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of having its populace use Facebook, nor to provide proper guidance on how to use it.
Basil suggested that Facebook has exposed its citizens’ data to certain vulnerabilities, and not all of them are about privacy or security issues, but also about lowering employees’ productivity. The government is also considering building its own social networking alternative where people can use their real names and interact with locally-built applications.
Some experts have pointed out that it’s strange that PNG is going to stop its people from using Facebook in order to study how they use it. Additionally, the experts worry that the government may plan a long-term ban or to gain the ability to turn the service off on the spot, and it’s now learning how to do it effectively.
Dr. Aim Sinpeng, an expert in digital media and politics from the University of Sydney, said that the most recent statistics show only 12% internet penetration in PNG, which is closely correlated to the use of Facebook. Given that most people don’t have access to the internet, nor Facebook, she believes that the government may be able to get away with it.
The Cambridge Analytica scandal not only hit Facebook’s image and users’ trust, but it seems to have also emboldened some governments to take more drastic measures against it. If the company continues to misstep, we may see new, even bolder actions against the service in other countries, too, in the future.