When it rains it pours? Facebook has been having a tough year. The Cambridge Analytica data scraping scandal is still fresh and ongoing, while the social network has faced usual criticism from authorities over privacy. In Papua New Guinea, Facebook could be closed, perhaps permanently.
The Pacific island nation has announced a plan to shut down Facebook for a month. During the temporary closure, regulators will investigate how the network affects citizens. The assessment will consider fake accounts, false news, data, privacy, pornography, and other negative aspects that are reported to be big problems in the country.
While the government says the ban is temporary, there could be further sanctions ahead. For example, if investigators don't like what they find, could they turn off Facebook permanently?
Sam Basil, communication minister in Papua New Guinea certainly pointed to a strict attitude. Speaking to the Post Courier, he said the government “cannot allow the abuse of Facebook to continue in the country.”
Probably the most interesting aspect of this story is that the internet is not widely used in the country. Indeed, internet penetration is less than 15 percent. Obviously not all that percentage is on Facebook, so in reality not many residents of Papua New Guinea use the network.
So, this suggests the government has looked at other nations and wants to prevent universal concerns over Facebook from growing. According to the report, Basil hinted at a government-backed social network to replace Facebook in the country.
Before the ban is implemented, Basil will meet with police to assess the legality.
As mentioned, Facebook has been in hot water recently. Over 80 million users had their data sold to Cambridge Analytica and the information was used to directly impact the last US Presidential Election.
A report from the New York Time and The Observer showed a researcher had access to personal data from over quarter of a million Facebook users. From these 270,000 members, the researcher could access 50 million friends and pass the data to Cambridge Analytica.