Papua New Guinea is banning Facebook for one month in order to research the social network’s effects on the population and to crack down on fake accounts.
Sam Basil, the country’s communication minister, said that the one-month ban will allow his agency to “filter” fake accounts and pornography from the website.
“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,” he told the Post Courier newspaper in Papua New Guinea, according to The Guardian. “This will allow genuine people with real identities to use the social network responsibly.”
The move comes as Facebook is facing criticism from users and lawmakers worldwide over its handling of user data, including a revelation that political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica had improperly obtained data on at least 87 million Facebook users.
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The social networking giant has also been a focus of the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The social network has deleted hundreds of Russia-linked accounts that it says were used to sow divisions in the U.S. ahead of the election through organizing events, controversial posts and targeted ad buys.
“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,” Basil said last month.
He also suggested that Papua New Guinea could create its own social network for citizens “to use with genuine profiles.”
Aim Sinpeng, a digital media expert from the University of Sydney, told The Guardian that the vast majority of Papua New Guineans do not use Facebook, so a ban will not have a major effect on the population.
Sinpeng questioned the reasoning behind the ban, saying that it is possible for the government to conduct research and crack down on fake accounts without limiting user access to the social network.
“One month is an interesting time limit for a ban, I am not exactly sure what they think they can achieve, and why a ban is necessary,” Sinpeng said. “You can do Facebook analysis without it.”