SYDNEY (Reuters) – The Solomon Islands is planning to ban the use of Facebook for an indeterminate period after inflammatory critique of the government was aired on the social media platform, the Solomon Times reported.
The government, led by Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, told Reuters it would issue a formal statement on its decision later on Tuesday.
If the ban goes ahead, the Solomons would join only a handful of countries around the world, including China, Iran and North Korea, to actively restrict the world’s biggest social networking platform.
A Facebook Inc spokeswoman said the company was contacting the Solomons government to discuss the issue.
“This move will impact thousands of people in the Solomon Islands who use our services to connect and engage in important discussions across the Pacific,” the spokeswoman said.
The government has been heavily criticised on social media over the distribution of economic stimulus funds amid the coronavirus pandemic and the impact of the Pacific nation’s decision to switch diplomatic ties from Taiwan to China.
Solomon’s Minister of Communication, Peter Shanel Agovaka, is one of the chief supporters of the ban, according to the Solomon Times, and has blamed “abusive language” and “character assassination” of government ministers, including the prime minister, being carried on the platform for the decision.
Facebook is a hugely popular forum for discussion in the Solomons with its population of around 650,000 spread out over a sprawling archipelago. The government also uses Facebook to broadcast speeches by the prime minister and to disseminate health information during the pandemic.
Opposition leader Matthew Wale told Reuters he would oppose the move.
“Politicians are always worried about people having access to information and being able to freely express their views – that really cannot be grounds for proposing a ban,” Wale told Reuters on the phone.
“I absolutely do not see any justification whatsoever for such a ban.”
(Reporting by Jonathan Barrett; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)