That’s daring: Papua New Guinea is blocking Facebook for the entire country for a month to measure its impact on the population. In addition, this would enable the communications and information technology department to investigate the use of Facebook. There is also much to do around fake news, pornography and fake accounts and the department wants to use the time that Facebook is not actively used to investigate these issues. The idea is that the department can identify and remove the users behind those items.
In Papua New Guinea the government has this power through the Cyber Crime Act that was adopted in 2016, but it is a strange situation for a government to see this happening. It seems that the minister of communication and IT is not so happy with Facebook, as he also says things to local media such as “we can not let the abuse of Facebook continue in our country”. Also the suggestion that a private social media channel could only be made for people in PNG points in that direction.
What’s the use?
Normally, governments only block social media if they plan to banned or in the run-up to elections if the trend is not favorable for the incumbent party. It is dictatorial behavior and the government statement here does not completely cut wood. If you want to solve fake users and other problems on Facebook, you can better cooperate with Facebook yourself. If you forbid the site nationwide for a month, Facebook will be less eager to enter into this collaboration.
That aside it is an interesting social experiment to have no Facebook for a month. This forces people who are far too many to search for other news and entertainment sources and hopefully the impact will be measured. Then this weird ban is useful anyway. What would happen if the Netherlands had to close Facebook for a month? Would users massively migrate to another channel? Then just go and watch TV again? The chance that it happens is so small that it is difficult to think about it.