Vietnamese blogger critic missing and feared ‘kidnapped’ in Bangkok

Truong Duy Nhat’s disappearance is all the more disturbing because he is widely respected as a blogger. Image: RSF/Youtube).

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has called on the Thai authorities to shed all possible light on the disappearance of Truong Duy Nhat, a famous Vietnamese blogger who went missing in Bangkok last month, one day after going to the local office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to apply for refugee status.

RSF is concerned that Vietnamese agents may have kidnapped Truong Duy Nhat on January 26 , who is from the city of Danang, in central Vietnam. The Thai police say they are not holding him.

More than ten days have gone by since anyone heard from him, RSF reports.

Other Vietnamese bloggers who have applied for refugee status in Bangkok say they think he was abducted while in a shopping mall in suburban Bangkok, according to Radio Free Asia, one of the media outlets for which Nhat works.

“We urge the Thai authorities to make every effort to shed light on Truong Duy Nhat’s extremely disturbing disappearance,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk.

“If the Thai authorities prove not to have been involved, this would mean that Vietnamese agents are no longer bothered by international law and violate a partner country’s sovereignty in order to pursue their critics. This sends an absolutely terrifying message to the community of Vietnamese bloggers who have sought refuge in Bangkok.”


Network of sources
Nhat’s disappearance is all the more disturbing because he is widely respected as a blogger, even within certain circles of the ruling Communist Party in Hanoi.

Bui Thanh Hieu, a blogger who has found asylum in Germany, wrote on Facebook that he suspected that Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc may have ordered Nhat’s abduction.

“I think the prime minister wants Nhat arrested at all costs because he is in possession of compromising information about the prime minister’s clan in Quang Nam province,” Hieu wrote.

Quang Nam province adjoins Danang, Nhat’s home town, where the blogger has many sources to help him with his investigative reporting.

Place of refuge
Nhat used to work for state media outlets, including Danang police newspapers, until 2010, when he launched his own blog, Mot Goc Nhin Khac (Another Viewpoint), in order to be able to report and write with complete freedom.

He was arrested in 2013 and sentenced to two years in prison for “abusing democratic freedoms” in his blog posts. RSF included him in its list of 100 “information heroes” in 2014.

In the course of the Vietnamese government’s two-year-old crackdown on citizen-journalists, many of them have found refuge in Bangkok.

Vietnam is ranked 175th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index, the lowest ranking in Southeast Asia. Thailand is ranked 140th.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Tonga’s communications blackout ‘a problem out of their control’

Internet shock … Tonga Communications Corporation. Image: Kalino Lātū/Kaniva News

By Philip Cass and Kalino Latu

Tonga’s abrupt communications blackout may last up to two weeks before the fibre optic submarine cable restores the internet and mobile connection with the world.

Tonga Cable Director Paula Piveni Piukala told Kaniva News repairs could be done in two weeks – but another manager hinted that it may take longer.

As Kaniva News reported earlier, the kingdom’s only internet and mobile phone providers, Digicel and Tonga Communications Corporation, were cut off about 8.30pm on Sunday in an “out of their control” situation.

Tonga currently had no other internet or mobile phone cable connection to the outside world.

It has been confirmed that the undersea cable has been cut.

Tonga Cable has a marine maintenance contract with TE Subcom.


The cable ship Reliance is docked in Apia and can reach Tonga in two or three days.

Tonga Cable CEO Edwin Liava’a said restoration could be completed within one or two weeks.

Worst case
At worst, it could take two to three weeks.

Meanwhile, Tonga Cable was using the local Internet Service Provider (ISP) Easynet via Kacific Satellite.

“Kacific’s satellite service ensures that essential services can be maintained as we work to resolve the issue,” Piukala said.

Liava’a previously said people experiencing slow connections should understand this was a matter for TCC or Digicel.

He said Tonga Cable Ltd functioned only as a wholesaler of capacity.

Authorities said the outage was ongoing and no time frame was available for restoration of Tonga Cable’s service.

The president of Tonga Chamber of Commerce Paul Chapman said on Facebook: “Tonga Cable was working hard to rectify the issues, out of their control, with the cable.”

He said Tonga Communication Corporation teams had been working with their providers to increase capacity and working with their satellite provider and TCL and EziNet.

He said TCL and TCC were trying to connect domestic fibre and increase satellite brand width as an option.

“End of the day, all teams working on a solution, for a problem that was out of their control, but hope to have something in place.

“Meanwhile we still have internet at sites for #PTH #DatelineTransam via #EziNet (Tonga’s Satellite connection via Kacific)” he said.

Zdnet said the subsea cable providing Tonga with broadband, the Tonga Cable, has been out since 20:30 local time on Sunday night, with the nation relying on satellite internet instead.

“Provided by Kacific, the nation’s digital connection to the outside world is now a Ku-band satellite accessed through local ISP Ezinet.”

Kalino Latu is editor of Kaniva News and Philip Cass is an editorial adviser. Kaniva News is shared with Asia Pacific Report by arrangement.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Critics see Fiji’s Online Safety Act as ‘Trojan horse’ for online censors

Fiji’s new online safety law … deemed by the government as necessary to make the internet a safe space for women and children. Image: S&S

By Mong Palatino of Global Voices

Fiji’s Online Safety Act took effect this month amid concerns that it will be used to censor the internet.

The law was passed in May 2018 two months after the Attorney-General’s office submitted it for Parliament deliberation. The government deemed it necessary to make the internet a safe space for women and children:

The Fijian Government in its commitment to ensure access to connectivity for all Fijians, has embarked on promoting a safe online culture and environment in hindsight of the recent increase of reports on harmful online behaviour such as cyberbullying, cyber stalking, Internet trolling and exposure to offensive or harmful content, particularly in respect of children.

Fiji has an estimated 500,000 active online users.

The Fiji media was placed under state control after the military staged a coup in 2006. In 2010, the Media Industry Development Decree was passed which noted press freedom but fears of state reprisal led to self-censorship in the media sector.

Meanwhile, the growing use of social media in recent years has allowed citizens to use this platform to share their views, report alternative news, and engage public officials.


Some reports mention that if the Media Industry Development Decree dealt with mainstream press, the Online Safety Act is designed to regulate social media.

Fourteen members of the opposition voted against the Online Safety Bill which they claimed would undermine democracy.

But some supporters of the law disputed this:

Fiji Sun Online, a major news portal, published an editorial endorsing the measure:

The Online Safety Bill if passed will protect Fijians from being victimised on social media as is rampant today. It will make online users think twice before they post things online.

Critics cited part four of the law as problematic since it could be arbitrarily used to intimidate internet users. This particular provision considers “the posting of an electronic communication with the intention to cause harm to an individual” as an offence and is punishable by five to seven years in prison.

Aside from the prison sentence, those found guilty of violating the law will be fined up to F$20,000 (US$9,440) for individual offenders.

Opponents of the law warned that “causing harm” as an offence was too broad so that any dissenting opinion could be interpreted as illegal content.

Jope Tarai from the University of the South Pacific noted in Pacific Journalism Review that the proposed Online Safety Commission as stipulated under section six of the law appears to mimic and repeat the functions of the police-based Cyber Crime Unit. Aside from creating a new agency that will police internet content, the law gives broad powers to the Online Safety Commission which “has raised concerns on its possible threat to free speech.”

The PJR scholar also warned that despite the avowed intent to promote safety, the law could lead to the censorship of free speech:

The Act on the surface professes online ‘Safety’, while its vagueness on responsible free speech leaves the act open to being a Trojan horse for online ‘Regulation’ and censorship of dissenting voices.

The claimed intent behind the Online Safety Act is certainly a noble one and long overdue in so far as protecting women, children and victims of irresponsible online behavior is concerned. However, the ‘danger’ narrative creatively cultivated by Fijian state officials ignored the strengths of social media.

During the Parliament deliberations, a group of young people enumerated their concerns about the proposed legislation:

We are a group of individual youth concerned about the effect of this Bill on free speech in Fiji. While we appreciate the need to protect children and men and women against revenge porn or unauthoriSed sharing of their intimate images or videos, we are concerned that this Bill is too widely drafted, that it can be misused by those in authority to punish and prosecute those who share their views, who do not share the same political views i.e. it can be misused to prosecute political opponents, rather than serve its purpose to protect children against cyberbullying or other online abuse.

Finally, Pacific Freedom Forum (PFF), a media network, warned that the new online safety law will “muzzle” rather than protect Fiji’s citizens. PFF Polynesia co-Chair Monica Miller said:

More than half a million citizens are now affected by this law and they need to be reassured that their rights to share ideas and information won’t be compromised even furTHER.

Mong Palatino is regional editor for Southeast Asia of Global Voices. He is an activist and two-term member of the Philippine House of Representatives, and has been blogging since 2004 at mongster’s nest. This article is republished with permission.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Open letter from MP for Wabag: EMTV move ‘dictatorship before our eyes’

Papua New Guinean journalists at APEC 2018 … “freedom of speech and expression are a fundamental right … and entrenched in the constitution”. Image: Loop PNG

OPINION: By Dr Lino Jeremaih Tom, MP for Wabag

The suspension of EMTV deputy news editor Scott Waide has brought us to a new low in Papua New Guinea’s downward spiral.

Freedom of speech and expression are a fundamental constitutional right entrenched in the constitution, are pillars of democracy and this suspension is a breach of this fundamental right.

We have become a dictatorship in essence and it’s happening right before our eyes. Leadership comes with the territory, and scrutiny and criticism are part of this package and the media plays a big part.

Wabag MP Lino Jeremaih Tom … “sad day for PNG for one of its most loved journalists to be treated this way”. Image: PNG Parliament

Biased reporting is not healthy for this country and it is indeed a sad day for PNG for one of its most loved journalists to be treated this way.

In fact, it’s disgusting and nauseating witnessing the gross abuse of power in recent times by those vested few in their bid for survival.

Desperation calls for desperate measures. All our oversight institutions and laws have been raped and plundered to a point where the remains are a dysfunctional wreck.


If we can’t condemn this stupid and selfish act then all of us leaders should resign in shame as we’d have failed miserably our mandated responsibilities as freedom of speech and expression is one of the foundation principles of any democratic society.

This is totally wrong EMTV. What’s your role as a media outlet in nation building in PNG? The management should hang their heads in shame for stooping this low.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

‘Don’t play with fire’ warning in Samoa’s social media threat

Many Samoans are angry over a threat by the prime minister earlier this year to ban the social media platform Facebook amid growing pressure by politicians and officials across the Pacific against “fundamental freedoms”. Mike Mohr reports for Asia Pacific Journalism in the second of a two-part series on online media.

Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Maleilegaoi has warned  that the social media site Facebook may be banned, and has told users “not to play with fire”.

But the threat earlier this year has drawn mounting criticism from Samoans online.

Public opinion online is suggesting that the Samoan government is threatening people’s right to freedom of expression and their right to free speech.

The Samoa Alliance of Media Practitioner for Development (SAMPOD) opposes any possible ban.

“The right to free expression is fundamental to a democracy like Samoa,” says SAMPOD.

SAMPOD and others who are opposed to the possible ban have cited the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights for the right of the people of Samoa to express their opinions without fear of repercussion from the government.


The Facebook threat – first made in March – is in retaliation to online criticism and scrutiny of the Samoan PM and cabinet ministers by members of the public.

Discontent with officials
Facebook and other social media platforms are being used by members of the public to voice their opinions and discontent with Samoan government officials.

“So, I advise them not to play with fire. I want them to know that no matter where you hide, you will be caught,” he told the Samoa Observer in an interview attacking “faceless writers” on blogs.

The Prime Minister has rejected the opinions and views of online commentators. He has added that these individuals are offending government leaders with their accusations.

“Because it’s all based on lies, those affected are government leaders” he told the Observer.

Although the issue about the threatened ban has been quiet in past weeks, after a recent visit to London for a Commonwealth cybersecurity conference, he renewed his attack on anonymous bloggers.

However, Samoa Observer editor Mata’afa Keni Lesa asked in an editorial why was Tuilaepa so worried and why was he making himself “look like the biggest bully” on a crusade.

The editor said Tuilaepa was “thrilled to finally have learnt that it’s not just Samoa struggling with the issue of faceless writers”.

The prime minister had found that all 53 countries of the Commonwealth had been affected by social media problems ranging from “character assassinations” to many unfounded allegations.

Family insults
The threatened ban on Facebook would be not only for criticism for political decisions, but also for comments regarding family, allegations of corruption and personal insults that are aimed at cabinet members.

“The government will do what it takes to settle this matter once and for all, even if it means banning Facebook,” he told the Observer.

Tuilaepa’s concern is with online social media sites that provide a platform for personal attacks and accusations that he believes are unfounded, misleading and untrue.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa has insisted that these posts and comments had absolutely no truth in them.

Accusation of corruption and unethical relationships are the main reasons for Tuilaepa’s belief that eventually Facebook, and other social media platforms, will be banned.

Government officials are not the only targets of online posts but also their family members.

Alleged sexual relationships between family members is one of the accusation that has provoked feelings of anger by those who are accused of such acts.

He continued by adding that if any of the accusations aimed at government officials were true, they would have been published in the Observer.

The threatened ban would include blogs and other popular social sites and apps.

The Facebook ban is being delayed, according to the Samoa Observer, but it is just a matter of time before Facebook and other online social media sites would be banned.

Blogger identities
The identities of some of the anonymous bloggers are known to the Prime Minister and police investigators, according to an article by Samoa Observer.

O Le Palemia is an anonymous blogger that has been singled out for inflammatory accusations levelled against Prime Minister Tuilaepa and other government officials.

The identity of the O Le Palemia has not yet been uncovered, or has not yet been released publicly.

Tuilaepa has warned that if its behaviour continued, he would be forced to release the names of those that he believes are responsible.

O Le Palemia last month published an attack on some Samoan media, accusing them of publishing “government propaganda”.  The blog named Newsline Samoa, Talamua Media and Samoa Planet.

Website Samoa Planet, founded by Lani Wendt Young and Tuiloma Sina Retzlaff, closed down last month.

There was hesitation in revealing the identities of the online bloggers because of fears of physical attacks by those who the accusations and comments are aimed at or by relatives and supporters.

Tuilaepa is sure that once the identities are revealed the bloggers lives would be in danger because of the severity of the online posts that had provoked anger in government officials.

The Prime Minister is adamant that when information about the identities of the anonymous bloggers is released to the public, violence would ensue in the form of reprisal attacks.

O Le Palemia was shut down in February for breaching Facebook’s community standards, reported RNZ Pacific, but apparently resumed publication.

Police investigation
Tuilaepa said in June police had filed charges against the people suspected of being behind the O Le Palemia blog but he did not name them.

In its statement against the threatened ban, SAMPOD said: “We urge the government to use existing mechanisms to address issues arising from the misuse of Facebook, but humbly caution against the banning of this essential medium of information for the people of Samoa.”

Online comments by fellow Samoans refer to government leaders as “Snowflakes” – a slang term referring to individuals that are “hypersensitive to criticism”, according Wikipedia and Merriam-Webster online.

Mike Maatulimanu Mohr is a student journalist on the Postgraduate Diploma in Communication Studies (Journalism) reporting on the Asia-Pacific Journalism course at AUT University.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Why data power of social media giants like Facebook troubles human rights

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Why data power of social media giants like Facebook troubles human rights

By Sarah Joseph in Melbourne

Facebook has had a bad few weeks. The social media giant had to apologise for failing to protect the personal data of millions of users from being accessed by data mining company Cambridge Analytica.

Outrage is brewing over its admission to spying on people via their Android phones. Its stock price plummeted, while millions deleted their accounts in disgust.

Facebook has also faced scrutiny over its failure to prevent the spread of “fake news” on its platforms, including via an apparent orchestrated Russian propaganda effort to influence the 2016 US presidential election.

Facebook’s actions – or inactions – facilitated breaches of privacy and human rights associated with democratic governance. But it might be that its business model – and those of its social media peers generally – is simply incompatible with human rights.

The good
In some ways, social media has been a boon for human rights – most obviously for freedom of speech.

Previously, the so-called “marketplace of ideas” was technically available to all (in “free” countries), but was in reality dominated by the elites.


While all could equally exercise the right to free speech, we lacked equal voice. Gatekeepers, especially in the form of the mainstream media, largely controlled the conversation.

But today, anybody with internet access can broadcast information and opinions to the whole world. While not all will be listened to, social media is expanding the boundaries of what is said and received in public.

The marketplace of ideas must effectively be bigger and broader, and more diverse.

Social media enhances the effectiveness of non-mainstream political movements, public assemblies and demonstrations, especially in countries that exercise tight controls over civil and political rights, or have very poor news sources.

Social media played a major role in co-ordinating the massive protests that brought down dictatorships in Tunisia and Egypt, as well as large revolts in Spain, Greece, Israel, South Korea, and the Occupy movement.

More recently, it has facilitated the rapid growth of the #MeToo and #neveragain movements, among others.

READ MORE: #MeToo is not enough: it has yet to shift the power imbalances that would bring about gender equality

The bad and the ugly
But the social media “free speech” machines can create human rights difficulties. Those newly empowered voices are not necessarily desirable voices.

The United Nations recently found that Facebook had been a major platform for spreading hatred against the Rohingya in Myanmar, which in turn led to ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

Video sharing site YouTube seems to automatically guide viewers to the fringiest versions of what they might be searching for. A search on vegetarianism might lead to veganism; jogging to ultra-marathons; Donald Trump’s popularity to white supremacist rants; and Hillary Clinton to 9/11 “trutherism”.

YouTube, via its algorithm’s natural and probably unintended impacts, “may be one of the most powerful radicalising instruments of the 21st century”, with all the attendant human rights abuses that might follow.

The business model and human rights
Human rights abuses might be embedded in the business model that has evolved for social media companies in their second decade.

Essentially, those models are based on the collection and use for marketing purposes of their users’ data. And the data they have is extraordinary in its profiling capacities, and in the consequent unprecedented knowledge base and potential power it grants to these private actors.

Indirect political influence is commonly exercised, even in the most credible democracies, by private bodies such as major corporations. This power can be partially constrained by “anti-trust laws” that promote competition and prevent undue market dominance.

Anti-trust measures could, for example, be used to hive off Instagram from Facebook, or YouTube from Google. But these companies’ power essentially arises from the sheer number of their users: in late 2017, Facebook was reported as having more than 2.2 billion active users. Anti-trust measures do not seek to cap the number of a company’s customers, as opposed to its acquisitions.

Power through knowledge
In 2010, Facebook conducted an experiment by randomly deploying a non-partisan “I voted” button into 61 million feeds during the US mid-term elections. That simple action led to 340,000 more votes, or about 0.14 percent of the US voting population. This number can swing an election. A bigger sample would lead to even more votes.

So Facebook knows how to deploy the button to sway an election, which would clearly be lamentable.

However, the mere possession of that knowledge makes Facebook a political player. It now knows that button’s the political impact, the types of people it is likely to motivate, and the party that’s favoured by its deployment and non-deployment, and at what times of day.

It might seem inherently incompatible with democracy for that knowledge to be vested in a private body. Yet the retention of such data is the essence of Facebook’s ability to make money and run a viable business.

A study has shown that a computer knows more about a person’s personality than their friends or flatmates from an analysis of 70 “likes”, and more than their family from 150 likes. From 300 likes it can outperform one’s spouse.

This enables the micro-targeting of people for marketing messages – whether those messages market a product, a political party or a cause. This is Facebook’s product, from which it generates billions of dollars. It enables extremely effective advertising and the manipulation of its users.

This is so even without Cambridge Analytica’s underhanded methods.

Advertising is manipulative: that is its point. Yet it is a long bow to label all advertising as a breach of human rights.

Advertising is available to all with the means to pay. Social media micro-targeting has become another battleground where money is used to attract customers and, in the political arena, influence and mobilise voters.

While the influence of money in politics is pervasive – and probably inherently undemocratic – it seems unlikely that spending money to deploy social media to boost an electoral message is any more a breach of human rights than other overt political uses of money.

Yet the extraordinary scale and precision of its manipulative reach might justify differential treatment of social media compared to other advertising, as its manipulative political effects arguably undermine democratic choices.

As with mass data collection, perhaps it may eventually be concluded that that reach is simply incompatible with democratic and human rights.

‘Fake news’
Finally, there is the issue of the spread of misinformation.

While paid advertising may not breach human rights, “fake news” distorts and poisons democratic debate. It is one thing for millions of voters to be influenced by precisely targeted social media messages, but another for maliciously false messages to influence and manipulate millions – whether paid for or not.

In a Declaration on Fake News, several UN and regional human rights experts said fake news interfered with the right to know and receive information – part of the general right to freedom of expression.

Its mass dissemination may also distort rights to participate in public affairs. Russia and Cambridge Analytica (assuming allegations in both cases to be true) have demonstrated how social media can be “weaponised” in unanticipated ways.

Yet it is difficult to know how social media companies should deal with fake news. The suppression of fake news is the suppression of speech – a human right in itself.

The preferred solution outlined in the Declaration on Fake News is to develop technology and digital literacy to enable readers to more easily identify fake news.

The human rights community seems to be trusting that the proliferation of fake news in the marketplace of ideas can be corrected with better ideas rather than censorship.

However, one cannot be complacent in assuming that “better speech” triumphs over fake news. A recent study concluded fake news on social media:

… diffused significantly farther, faster, deeper, and more broadly than the truth in all categories of information.

Also, internet “bots” apparently spread true and false news at the same rate, which indicates that:

… false news spreads more than the truth because humans, not robots, are more likely to spread it.

The depressing truth may be that human nature is attracted to fake stories over the more mundane true ones, often because they satisfy predetermined biases, prejudices and desires. And social media now facilitates their wildfire spread to an unprecedented degree.

Perhaps social media’s purpose – the posting and sharing of speech – cannot help but generate a distorted and tainted marketplace of fake ideas that undermine political debate and choices, and perhaps human rights.

What next?
It is premature to assert the very collection of massive amounts of data is irreconcilable with the right to privacy (and even rights relating to democratic governance).

Similarly, it is premature to decide that micro-targeting manipulates the political sphere beyond the bounds of democratic human rights.

Finally, it may be that better speech and corrective technology will help to undo fake news’ negative impacts: it is premature to assume that such solutions won’t work.

However, by the time such conclusions may be reached, it may be too late to do much about it. It may be an example where government regulation and international human rights law – and even business acumen and expertise – lags too far behind technological developments to appreciate their human rights dangers.

At the very least, we must now seriously question the business models that have emerged from the dominant social media platforms.

Maybe the internet should be rewired from the grassroots, rather than be led by digital oligarchs’ business needs.

Dr Sarah Joseph is director of the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, Monash University, in Melbourne, Australia.This article was first published by The Conversation and has been republished by Asia Pacific Report under a Creative Commons licence.

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PNG mobile revolution about to enter new high-speed cable phase

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: PNG mobile revolution about to enter new high-speed cable phase

Papua New Guinea’s cellphone culture change … 3 million mobile users, says new research. Image: Ourmaninproject

By Scott Waide in Lae

In 2007 when Digicel entered the PNG market, Papua New Guineans realised how much in unnecessary charges they had been paying for mobile and internet services.

Until 2007, the mobile phone monopoly run by a government subsidiary, BeeMobile Communications, forced customers to pay K125 (NZ$45) for a mobile start-up kit which contained a SIM card and K100 in phone credits.

Digicel slashed costs and flooded the market with up to 1 million handsets selling at K30 a piece with free SIM cards.

Over the last 15 years, the implementation of government legislation and regulations have drastically improved the digital landscape in Papua New Guinea.

Research this year conducted by the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) puts the figure of internet users in PNG at 960,000.

There are more than 3 million mobile subscribers, which means at least four of 10 people own a mobile phone.


However, despite 15 years of legislative and regulatory reforms and general improvements, the country still lags behind in ICT infrastructure and the cost of services.

Among highest Asia-Pacific rates
Statistically speaking, Papua New Guineans continue to pay among the highest mobile data rates in the Asia Pacific region.

Three of PNG’s top mobile service providers; Digicel, BMobile Vodafone, and Telikom are the six most expensive service providers in Asia Pacific.

Papua New Guinea’s closest neighbours – Indonesia, New Zealand, Fiji and Australia – are among the top six countries that have the cheapest rates.

Ten years on and Papua New Guineans are on the brink of another phase of development.

The government’s budget policy for 2018 highlights that a new high-speed internet cable funded by the Australian government will be laid from Australia to PNG. It will take 24 months to complete.

This is expected to take care of PNG’s ballooning ICT demands over the next 25 years.

The submarine cable will complement the investments to mobile telephone infrastructure to improve the availability of 3G and 4G services to more Papua New Guineans.

Through community-based programmes, NICTA also has plans to support the expansion of access to high-speed broadband internet connectivity to selected communities.

As Papua New Guinea prepares to host a series of APEC meetings in 2018, the country is under a lot of pressure to live up to expectations as an exemplary player in the region despite its ICT challenges.

Bringing costs down will trigger, improvements in large business activity and SMEs. It is an area of the economy that desperately needs a boost with government help.

Scott Waide is the Lae bureau chief of EMTV News and a former journalist with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation bureau in Port Moresby. He has won several awards for his journalism. EMTV News reports are republished by Asia Pacific Report with permission.

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Amanda Watson: Does PNG rank highly for internet porn searches?

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Amanda Watson: Does PNG rank highly for internet porn searches?

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By Dr Amanda Watson

In Papua New Guinea, the Post-Courier featured a front-page story with the headline “PNG tops world in ‘porn’ search” on January 17. In previous years, there have also been similar stories asserting that PNG beats all other countries when it comes to internet searches for pornography.

For any nation, this accolade would be unwelcome. As PNG prides itself on being a Christian country with strong traditional cultures and values, coupled with tough laws banning importation of pornographic magazines and movies, the headline has produced consternation.

The PNG Post-Courier front page on January 17.

The ruling political party in PNG has released a statement and the competing newspaper has also published a response. Both reactions argue that the Post-Courier’s front page story is inaccurate.

The front-page article included the assertion that 100 percent of all internet searches in Western Highlands Province are for the term ‘porn’. Clearly, not every internet search in that province includes this term.

So, what is going on? My blog will examine the source of the newspaper story and assess its credibility. It will also discuss internet access trends in PNG.

The source of the media reports is Google Trends. This is an interactive website run by Google, probably the world’s most popular internet search engine, which presents information about the searches that are conducted through Google.

For instance, a user can type in the word “car” and see information about how popular the search term is over time and also where it is popular, comparing regions, countries and cities.

First glance
At first glance, the site appears to suggest that 100 percent of all searches conducted using Google in the United Kingdom feature the word “car”. But this is not possible. There’s no way that all of the people in Wales, Scotland and other parts of the United Kingdom only ever use Google when they want to find out information about different kinds of motor vehicles.

Instead, the way it works is that the figures represent rankings, not percentages. The Post-Courier’s story was misleading in that it included percentage symbols alongside bar graphs. As Google Trends explains: “100 is the location with the most popularity as a fraction of total searches in that location”.

In other words, the United Kingdom had more searches during the time period for the word “car” compared to other countries, as a percentage of the total number of searches, which would also have included many other words, including “weather”, “news”, “school”, “restaurant”, “bank” and more.

Another example is the term “Highlands”. When inserted into Google Trends, bar graphs appear showing 75 for PNG. Again, this does not mean that 75 percent of the Google searches conducted by people in PNG are for this word.

Instead, it means that compared to other countries – where, for example, the term “mountains” might be more commonly used – the term “Highlands” is searched for fairly frequently in PNG.

Now, turning to the term “porn”, when looking at trends over the past five years, PNG is not listed in the top 25 countries. In fact, when the author visited the Google Trends website shortly after the Post-Courier story was published, it proved difficult to replicate the Post-Courier’s results.

I changed the time period to the past 12 months and the results revealed that once again PNG did not feature in the top 25 nations. I generated similar results for other time periods, as is shown in Table 1.

Table 1: Country rankings: Google Trends enquiries on 26 January 2017 using the term ‘porn’

Difficult to check
It’s important to note that the Post-Courier’s findings were not easy to duplicate and that in fact PNG does not feature in the top 25 listing for most time periods. Google Trends results are constantly being updated in real time and therefore it is very difficult to check or verify the Post-Courier’s story.

In addition, the tool only presents the top 25 countries – therefore it is not possible to determine a country’s actual ranking if it does not appear in the top 25.

It’s also helpful to point out that the size of a country’s population does not impact upon the ranking, as the ranking refers to the frequency of use of a word, for instance “porn”, as compared to all other words inserted into Google in that place, including “school”, “highway”, “buai”, “election”, “Highlands”, “Australia”, etc.

In other words, the word “Highlands” is used in PNG more often as a percentage of all searches, compared to the word “mountains”. It’s also worth noting that some users may have blocked their location, meaning that Google cannot tell where they are based, and this would of course make any data regarding locations of searches somewhat inaccurate.

Western Highlanders might also be curious to know how their province rates. While the Post-Courier showed a graph suggesting that the Western Highlands is the province with the most searches for the term “porn” versus other words used, compared to other provinces of PNG, the results are inconsistent.

As is shown in Table 2, Western Highlands Province (WHP) moves around the rankings a great deal, depending on the time period in question. For instance, in the past 7 days, WHP didn’t feature at all in the top ten provinces, whereas it’s in the top position when looking at the last 5 years.

When focusing on other provinces, their positions also move around a great deal. In short, the author feels that the rankings vary so much when comparing provinces in PNG as to be meaningless.

Table 2: Western Highlands Province (WHP): Google Trends enquiries on 26 January 2017 using the term ‘porn’

Note: Google Trends results are only showing for the first four provinces in the “past 30 days” time period, for the first eight provinces in the ‘past 4 hours’ category and for the first five provinces in the “past hour” time period.

Significant improvement
In the last couple of years there has been a significant improvement in the accessibility of the internet in PNG, due to mobile network upgrades and expansions, as well as availability of cheap smartphone handsets.

While most people in PNG still do not have access to electricity, many do now live within mobile network coverage. The majority of this coverage is second generation (2G) which is suitable only for voice calls and text messaging.

But around urban centres, both Digicel and bmobile Vodafone now offer third generation (3G) service, which can be used to surf the internet, correspond through email and use social media platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp.

In Port Moresby and Lae, Digicel offers 4G service. Telikom PNG is in the process of launching a new, digital mobile phone service which will aim to compete with the other players.

All these changes have meant that a growing number of people in PNG are accessing the internet for the first time. In particular, the number of Facebook users based in PNG continues to rise. Interest in and use of Facebook is fuelled by mobile phone companies offering special promotions through which Facebook use is either free or very cheap.

Nonetheless, many people in PNG still use basic handsets and rarely access the internet, if ever.

In short, this context means that many of the internet users in PNG have only had internet access for a year or two. As people in PNG are among the latest in the world to gain access to the internet, they may be unaware of the range of activities or kinds of searches that they could undertake through this medium.

Alarmist reports not helpful
Publication of alarmist, misleading reports suggesting that online porn consumption is sky-high in PNG is not going to help to strengthen understanding about the medium or how to use it.

Having examined the recent Post-Courier article and the Google Trends website, it’s now clear that the Post-Courier article was incorrect and that PNG does not necessarily rank highly for internet porn searches.

The assertion in the newspaper’s sub-heading that “almost all Papua New Guineans look up the word ‘porn’” is not supported by the evidence. It also seems plain that any comparison of provinces within PNG is unhelpful.

Even if patterns could be determined in the Google Trends material, given limited internet access and use by most people across PNG, it would be unwise to draw conclusions regarding how provinces compare to one another.

Further research will be required to unpack whether Google Trends does convey some useful data. Academic research would also be valuable in order to learn about the internet use of groups of people in PNG.

Amanda H A Watson is a lecturer in Public Policy at the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG), based in Port Moresby under the UPNG-ANU partnership. She is also a visiting fellow with the State, Society and Governance in Melanesia Program at the Australian National University (ANU). This article was first published on the Development Policy Centre’s blog DevNet and is republished here with permission.