Papua New Guinea: Debating a speculative Facebook ban

Posted by on June 1, 2018  /  0 Comments

India keeps shutting down the Internet. This necessarily involves shutting down Facebook. Few pay attention. Sri Lanka has never shut down the Internet. But it restricted access to some social media including Facebook in March 2018. The whole world talked about it. A Papua New Guinea Minister speculated that the government is considering a one month ban of Facebook to conduct research on fake profiles and such. No ban. Just talk. But again, attention was paid. Curious.

Wired has tried to provide information beyond the Minister’s trial balloon:

Papua New Guinea has relatively low internet penetration, partially because getting access on the remote island nation remains expensive. It’s also not one of the 63 countries where mobile carriers have partnered with Facebook’s project to provide free access to resources like Wikipedia, health information, and, of course, Facebook.

Only an estimated 10 percent of the country’s 8 million people had internet access in 2014, according to the International Telecommunications Union, though around half said they have mobile phones. But those dated statistics don’t paint an accurate picture of the role Facebook plays in the country, according to academics and people who live there.

We have not conducted any demand-side research in PNG. Given the difficulties of domestic travel and the multiple languages this would be very difficult. But we can extrapolate from what we have learned about South East Asia that it is likely that there are many people in PNG who use Facebook, but do not know about Internet. We could suggest that the careful analysis offered by Ibrahim Rohman and Ayesha Zainudeen about a similar trial balloon floated in Indonesia may be worth consideration by the PNG authorities.

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