PNG plans to shut down Facebook for one month to target ‘fake users’

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Communications Minister Sam Basil ... “The time will allow information to be collected to identify users that hide behind fake accounts." Image: TechnoExaminer

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

Papua New Guinea plans to shut down Facebook for one month to enable the government to filter out “fake users”, report local media

The PNG Post-Courier reported today that the “shutdown” was a reality, but gave no date for this planned action.

Post-Courier reporter Benny Geteng said Facebook users in the country could expect the shutdown so that the Communications and Information Technology Department could carry out “research and analysis” of its use.

READ MORE: Mixed signals from PNG government over Facebook plan

Communications Minister Sam Basil said that the shutdown would enable the department and National Research Institute to conduct further research on how the social network was being used by users, the newspaper said.

“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.

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“This will allow genuine people with real identities to use the social network responsibly,” Basil was quoted by the Post-Courier as saying.

The minister said that the department could better analyse the positive impact it would have on the population during the month-long shutdown and weigh the impact of progress without or with its use.

Enforcing Cyber Crime Act
Basil said that his ministry was trying to enforce the Cyber Crime Act which was legislated in 2016, the Post-Courier said.

“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.”

Basil said the positives of the social network were there for the people to embrace.

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

“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,” he said.

Basil said that a time had not been set as yet to implement the options but he would advise depending on assessment of the usage of the site over time, the Post-Courier reported.

Chinese model hint
Papua New Guinean affairs commentator Keith Jackson, who publishes the blog PNG Attitude, said Communications Minister Sam Basil had established no date for the shutdown, nor had he revealed how he would achieve it.

Basil had also not stated how the country would cope if access was prevented to the many substantive and legitimate sites that were used for day-to-day commercial, government, personal and emergency transactions in PNG.

Jackson also said the minister had hinted at using a Chinese model of a “new social network site” for PNG.

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