SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - The government Papua New Guinea is considering blocking Facebook while it investigates how to best to regulate the social networking site. Critics say the move would be authoritarian.
Authorities in Papua New Guinea, or PNG, say Facebook has become a magnet for illegal and unsavory activity. The government is considering a temporary ban on the site while it works out the best way to regulate the social media platform.
Only about 10 percent of the nearly 7 million people in PNG use Facebook, but some officials have become increasingly agitated by content being posted online.They have asked experts to help in their search for the best way to impose controls on the social media site.
PNG Communications Minister, Sam Basil, says illegal use of Facebook must be curbed.
"Defamatory publications or the fake news, identity theft and, of course, unidentified Facebook users. Most of those users are the ones that are really breaching all the laws in terms of posting pornography materials and, of course, posting fake news," he said.
But critics believe the government's attempts to muzzle Facebook are an attack on free speech. They believe that ministers are motivated by a desire to silence those who expose official corruption and wrongdoing online.
Lawrence Stephens, the chairman of Transparency International PNG, says a temporary ban of Facebook would be a draconian move.
"To talk about stopping this for a month whilst someone, somewhere does an analysis of what we should be able to see sounds pretty authoritarian and pretty worrying," said Stephens.
The move to temporarily ban Facebook comes as PNG prepares to host the 2018 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, or APEC, leaders' summit later this year.
PNG is a South Pacific nation and is Australia's closest neighbor.