Papua New Guinea has banned Facebook for a month to root out fake users

Papua New Guinea has banned Facebook for a month to root out fake users

The government of Papua New Guinea has announced that the Oceanic nation will completely ban its population from using Facebook for four weeks, in an attempt to crack down on bot farms and other "fake users", and to study the sociological effect of social media influence.

During the course of the ban, Papua New Guinea's Digital Communications Department will conduct painstaking research and analysis on Facebook use and traffic from within its own borders, amid rising concerns about the platform's impact on social wellbeing, security and productivity. The drastic move has been prompted by the incumbent regime's fears over data privacy, in the wake of revelations made about Facebook's policies after the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

In a statement made to The Post Courier, communication minister Sam Basil said that "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."

Last month Basil also stated that: "The national government, swept along by IT globalisation, never really had the chance to ascertain the advantages or disadvantages [of Facebook] – and even educate and provide guidance on use of social networks like Facebook to PNG users. The two cases involving Facebook show us the vulnerabilities that Papua New Guinean citizens and residents on their personal data and exchanges when using this social network."

He added: "We can also look at the possibility of creating a new social network site for PNG citizens to use with genuine profiles as well ... 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 believes that, in its current form, Facebook fails a cost-benefit analysis, with the world's most popular social media website functioning as an unchecked advertising platform, as well as a threat to productivity and mental health. Basil also intends for his department to study how other countries use Facebook, as well as the effect of government policies on private users.