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In Papua New Guinea, Facebook May Shutter — For A Bit

Facebook going dark?

In at least one corner of the world and at least for some stretch of time, that might be a reality.

The Post-Courier reports that in Papua New Guinea, users of the social media giant will have to get their feeds and updates and funny videos elsewhere, as a month-long shutdown looms.

The shuttering, albeit temporary, is necessary as the country’s Communication and Information Technology Department looks to analyze how the site is used in Papua New Guinea.

Said Sam Basil, the communications minister, “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.” The efforts are tied to the Cyber Crime Act, which traces its genesis back to 2016.

Basil noted the general positives of social networking could be applied on a company-specific scale — though no timeframe had been immediately offered. The minister stated that one possibility lies with creating a “new social network” site for citizens to use in Papua New Guinea.

Said Basil, “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. I will now work closely with the police for them to be properly trained and informed to fully enforce the Cyber Crime Act.”

In the wake of Facebook’s temporary disappearing act, said Basil, his department will be able to analyze the impact that the site, whether operating or absent, has on society.

“If there [needs to] 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 said.

Separately, Mashable reported that in its quest to ascertain whether Facebook’s societal impact tips toward the positive or negative, the government — by blocking access to the site — may set a precedent.

The country has only 8.4 million people, and only 12 percent of that tally uses the internet.

But then again, if Papua New Guinea’s shutdown becomes “a trend” among small countries, Facebook may grapple with reputational damage that extends beyond the Cambridge Analytica controversies.

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