As Papua new guinea (PNG) announces that they will be banning Facebook for one month- it has raised suspicions as to whether Facebook may severely struggle to compete, with alternative social media platforms.
By now, I’m sure you are all well aware of the Cambridge Analytica scandal that has rocked the technological world, and in the European Union even caused a change in the law. This was a result of the misallocation of personal data, and the rapid spread of fake news.
So how do other countries deal with this?
The communication minister of PNG, Sam Basil says the month long ban on Facebook will allow for the identification of people behind fake news and the posting of pornography. Basil has suggested that PNG may even create their own social media platform in replacement of Facebook, which inevitably will make native criminals easier to locate.
Is PGN cutting off their nose to spite their face?
Banning Facebook will cause correspondence issues for the people of PNG, regarding their ability to communicate globally via social media. Bearing in mind, only 10% of the population have access to internet, this will still be a huge setback to the country’s digital progression. Also we must question the effectiveness of this tactic, will there be a significant reduction in the creation of fake news and the spread of pornography if only 10% of the population is actually online? And out of this 10%, how many are actually using Facebook?
Facebook ban? Yeah right
We also need to consider if it is actually possible to stop all types of fake news and digital pornography from accessing the people of PNG. There are always other social media sites that are easily accessible. Is the government going to block them also?
Let’s think hypothetically for a moment, if PNG does successfully block Facebook and the native people who do have access to internet and want to continue to use it, surely they can travel elsewhere to be able to access Facebook.
This suggestion is not unheard of, in China facebook is blocked, however, if one was to travel to Hong Kong or Macau they will be able to access Facebook.
Democracy vs Nanny state?
The mere fact the state can trigger a national ‘shut down’ of a social media site, causes us to question the limit regarding the mechanisms used to express free thought. Will PNG begin to manage content online like China? If so, how can true democracy occur?
Another approach to this subject matter, involves questioning where the ‘ban’ and control the government has over social media will reach its end point. What else will they control? Will phone calls be listened to?
To conclude, It is straightforward to understand the reasoning behind the desire to ban Facebook, however, it also brings into question whether the ban will do more damage than good for the people of PNG, especially regarding progression to the country’s communication industry as well as it’s progression as a whole. To limit freedom of social communication can branch out into other injustices that may occur within a society.