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Papua New Guinea Blocking Facebook for Monthlong Fake-News Review

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg meets with a group of entrepreneurs and innovators during a round-table discussion in St. Louis on Nov. 9, 2017. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Papua New Guinea is cutting off Facebook access in the country for a month in hopes of getting a handle on fake news, the country’s Communications and Information Technology Department said.

According to the country’s Post-Courier newspaper, Communications Minister Sam Basil said the shutdown “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.”

“This will allow genuine people with real identities to use the social network responsibly,” he added.

The ministry is using the country’s 2016 Cyber Crime Act to force the shutdown and “ensure the law is enforced accordingly where perpetrators can be identified and charged accordingly.”

“We cannot allow the abuse of Facebook to continue in the country,” he said, floating the idea of “creating a new social network site for PNG citizens to use with genuine profiles as well.”

As part of its continuing efforts to revise site policies after criticism of the site’s role in disseminating fake news, Facebook announced last week that “all election-related and issue ads on Facebook and Instagram in the U.S. must be clearly labeled – including a ‘Paid for by’ disclosure from the advertiser at the top of the ad.”

“When you click on the label, you’ll be taken to an archive with more information. For example, the campaign budget associated with an individual ad and how many people saw it – including their age, location and gender,” Director of Product Management Rob Leathern explained.

“We believe that increased transparency will lead to increased accountability and responsibility over time – not just for Facebook but advertisers as well. We’re investing heavily in more people and better technology to proactively identify abuse. But if you see an ad which you believe has political content and isn’t labeled, please report it,” Leathern continued, adding that the company “will review the ad, and if it falls under our Political Advertising policy, we’ll take it down and add it to the archive.”

“The advertiser will then be banned from running ads with political content until they complete our authorization process. And we’ll follow up to let you know what happened to the ad you reported. This is the tool that makes it easier for you to find problems, which we want. We invite you to report any ad so we get better, faster.”