SYDNEY – The government of the Solomon Islands has defended its plans to ban Facebook, insisting the move would preserve “national unity.” Ministers say the world’s largest social media platform has been “grossly abused.” But critics insist a ban is an attempt to shut down criticism of the government’s economic policies.
Facebook helps connect the people of a tropical archipelago that stretches over more than 1,400 kilometers of the South Pacific.
But the government believes the social media platform is being “grossly abused.” Officials in the capital, Honiara, are to discuss blocking Facebook with internet companies because of concerns about defamation and cyber bullying.
Authorities want to regulate users’ behavior to protect the community from “vile abusive language” online. Until new laws can be passed, there would be a temporary ban on Facebook.
Minister of Communications Peter Shanel Agovaka told Radio New Zealand Pacific that tough regulations are needed.
“Coming with freedom of expression and freedom of the media is a lot of responsibility. You don’t just go out and say things out of the ordinary to your neighbors. It’s about using it wisely, communicate, share information and so on, and not to abuse people,” Agovaka said.
It is unclear, however, how a ban on Facebook would work.
Critics say the move would breach the constitutional rights of Solomon Islanders and attempt to shut down dissent. Opposition politicians call the proposals “pathetic,” while Amnesty International says any such ban would be a ‘brazen attack on human rights.”
Facebook has said it was contacting authorities to discuss the plans.
Any ban would put the Pacific island nation alongside just four other countries where the social media platform is outlawed: China, Iran, North Korea and Syria.
The Solomon Islands is home to about 685,000 people. While the archipelago stretches across a vast area of ocean, its land mass is comparable to that of Albania.
About 20% of the population has access to the internet.