Solomon Islands withdraws Facebook ban threat

SYDNEY (REUTERS) – The Solomon Islands will not go ahead with a planned ban on the use of Facebook and instead will work with the platform to address concerns over inflammatory critiques of the government aired on it in recent months, local media reported on Wednesday (Jan 13).

Solomon’s Minister of Communication, Mr Peter Shanel Agovaka, who had been a chief supporter of the ban, told Solomon Business Magazine (SBM) that “Facebook will not be suspended”.

He had previously blamed “abusive language” and “character assassination” of government ministers, including Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, being carried on the platform for the planned ban.

Representatives for the Solomon Islands and Facebook Inc did not immediately return requests for comment.

The government had been 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.

Mr Agovaka also told the publication the country was working on new telecommunication laws to register all mobile SIMs, and that after discussions with Facebook’s Pacific office, the government expected to release details about how its concerns would be addressed.

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.

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