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Papua New Guinea looks to ban Facebook for a month and considers launching a replacement

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Papua New Guinea could ban access to Facebook for a month, time that officials say would provide an opportunity to study its effects on the population, according to a local news report.

“The time will allow information to be collected to identify users that hide behind fake accounts, users that upload pornographic images, users that post false and misleading information on Facebook to be filtered and removed,” Communications Minister Sam Basil told the Post-Courier. “This will allow genuine people with real identities to use the social network responsibly.”

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports that the controversial plan is only one idea under consideration for the social media platform, but it’s already raising questions about government censorship.

Basil told the Post-Courier that the government was looking to comply with legislation passed last year and was also considering the prospect of “a new social network site” built for Papua New Guinea citizens.

The country of about 8 million people would not be the first, or the most populous, to shut down Facebook. Government estimates reported by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation place Facebook users at between 600,000 and 700,000 people in the nation.

The company is already banned from operating in some countries, including China and North Korea, and there have been intermittent shutdowns in others. The service was banned in Sri Lanka for about a week earlier this year after allegations that the company’s tools were being used to spread violence.

Facebook continues to face questions about how it handles user data, following revelations from the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Basil’s office did not immediately responded to a request for comment. A Facebook person said in a statement that the company has “reached out to the government to understand their concerns.”

Update, 1:46 PM ET: Includes statement from Facebook spokesperson.