The Communications Minister of the southwestern island country Papua New Guinea has recently announced that Facebook will be temporarily shutting down within the nation, likely for a period of around a month.
General reactions to the news ranged from skepticism to outrage, with many—both in and outside the country— questioning the government’s motives. While it is not unreasonable to be wary of putting blind trust in the infamous social media giant given their recent scandals, the actions taken by the administration blur the line between security and censorship.
The official statement released by the Minister Sam Basil claims that the purpose of such a shutdown is to
identify users that hide behind fake accounts, users that upload pornographic images, users that post false and misleading information on Facebook.
After the cleanse, he went on to say,
this will allow genuine people with real identities to use the social network responsibly.
However, many suspect that the true impetus for closing down operations on the social network could be an effort to stymie free speech and prevent flows of information into and out of the country. News network Al Jazeera has likened the ban to other internet blockades in countries like Iran, actions which constituted clear attempts to help bolster the government’s image and undermine democracy.
Another interesting tidbit is that Basil even mentioned the prospect of creating an altogether new social media site, one that would be
“more conducive for Papua New Guineans to communicate within the country and abroad as well”
It’s unlikely that either Zuckerberg or the average Papua New Guinean would be particularly thrilled about this news, but only time will tell.