By Jonathan Barrett
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, to actively restrict the world’s biggest social networking platform.
Facebook Inc did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment on Tuesday.
The government has been heaviy criticised 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.
Facebook is a hugely popular forum in the Solomons for discussion with the population of around 650,000 people spread out over a sprawling archipelago.
Solomon’s Minister of Communication and Aviation, 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.
Opposition leader Matthew Wale told Reuters he would oppose the ban.
“I absolutely do not see any justification whatsoever for such a ban,” Wale told Reuters on the phone.
(This story refiles to remove extraneous word from first paragraph)
(Reporting by Jonathan Barrett; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)