Various groups have spoken out against the decision to ban Facebook, calling it an act of “dictatorship.” The government of the tiny island in the Pacific reportedly wants to censor “internet sites that show pornography, particularly those featuring children,” however many people see an altogether more sinister side to the decision.
Facebook as a hotbed of political dissent
Many people believe that the government is in fact responding to the increasingly large number of people who had been using Facebook in order to express their political dissent against the ruling party.
“The real agenda here is curbing the rights of people to access social media,” opposition MP Matthew Batsiua told Pacific Beat. “This is all about [justice minister] Adeang and his cronies being worried about the ever increasing number of people who have taken to social media to criticise his dictatorial style, which even the president is either unwilling – or too scared – to rein in.”
The island has just 10,000 inhabitants, but many of them have become increasingly fed up with the lack of transparency of their government, which has Batsuia accuses of “shutting out members of the opposition, having an ineffective parliament where basically there’s no scrutiny or debate on policies and activities.”
Refugees cut off from their families
As well as opposition activists, the Facebook ban will also affect refugees who are currently housed in the Nauru detention center. Many of them use Facebook to maintain contact with family members in other parts of the world, but they will now have to use other forms of communication.
Alongside the ban on Facebook, the government has reportedly also passed a new law restricting where and when residents of Nauru can protest. “The ability to arrest … assemblies three or greater now extends to public areas and that effectively means inside the refugee compounds itself,” said Ian Rintoul, who works for the Refugee Action Coalition. “It’s not far short of being a dictatorship.”
It remains to be seen whether the government of Nauru succeeds in dampening political dissent, or whether activists will simply move to a different platform in order to air their views.