In a bid to find “fake users” and to study the social network’s impact on the population, the government of Papua New Guinea are banning Facebook for a month.

This is like when your mate has some real important uni exams coming up and they deactivate their Facebook account – except it’s an entire country’s access being shut off, against their will. So not like that at all.

PNG Communications Minister Sam Basil told the Post-Courier that the Communications and Information Technology Department would be looking to filter out and remove “fake users, users that post pornographic images, [and] users that post false and misleading information“: “This will allow genuine people with real identities to use the social network responsibly.”

It’ll be VERY interesting to see what the PNG gov considers “false and misleading information” in particular, because one can’t help but think that this kinda crackdown could work instead to impair freedoms of speech, press, and information, enshrined in their 1975 Constitution.

The government aims to use this opportunity – a country sans Facey B – to enforce the 2016 Cyber Crime Act, which sets out the country’s laws and penalties relating to online offences, from issues like copyright infringement and cyber attacks to fraud, bullying and pornography:

The Act has already been passed, so what I’m trying to do is to ensure the law is enforced accordingly where perpetrators can be identified and charged accordingly. We cannot allow the abuse of Facebook to continue in the country.”

Basil went on to say that the inquiry may well find that Papua New Guinea’s peoples may be better served by an alternative social network.

We can also look at the possibility of creating a new social network site for PNG citizens to use with genuine profiles as well,” he said. “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.”

Last month, Basil directed the Department and the National Information Communications Technology Authority to advise him on how to protect the privacy of PNG’s Facebook users, according to Loop PNG. His directive was issued in the wake of the US Senate Hearings into Facebook, and would cover “the advantages and disadvantages of use of Facebook, the vulnerabilities that include not just the protection of personal data, but wider social issues like security and safety of users, the time-consumption and productivity of users – especially school-aged children and employees – and of course the wider issue of cybersecurity and cybercrime“.

Recent stats from the International Telecommunication Union, World Bank and the United Nations Population Division put internet penetration at just about 12% in Papua New Guinea, or a little over 900,000 people, which may mean that Facebook is a non-issue to much of the population, and this ban may attract little attention or ire.

Source: The Guardian
Image: Getty Images / Chip Somodevilla