Facebook removes accounts linked to Myanmar’s military
Move against hate speech after UN report accuses miltary of genocide in treatment of Rohingya
Men walk at a Rohingya village outside Maungdaw in Rakhine state, Myanmar in October 2016. Facebook posts have stirred up and spread hatred against the minority Rohingya population in Myanmar. Photograph: Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters
Facebook has removed 18 accounts and 52 pages associated with the Myanmar military, including the page of its commander-in-chief, after an UN report accused the armed forces of genocide and war crimes.
In an unusually prompt move, the pages and accounts of the Mynamar military, known as the Tatmadaw, were deleted just minutes after the UN fact-finding mission released its damning report.
Facebook, which is a highly popular source of information in Myanmar, has come under criticism for giving a platform to vitriolic posts aimed at stirring up and spreading hatred against the minority Muslim Rohingya population. About 25,000 have been killed and 700,000 forced to flee to Bangldesh in a campaign of violence in the past year. There have been several incidents of mob violence, both Buddhist and Muslim, after messages spread on Facebook messenger about bogus attacks.
The UN report named several generals, including the head of the military, Min Aung Hlaing, who “must be investigated and prosecuted for genocide in the north of Rakhine state, as well as for crimes against humanity and war crimes”. In response, Facebook removed six pages and six accounts associated with him and other military commanders.
“We want to prevent them from using our service to further inflame ethnic and religious tensions,” the company said. The removed pages and accounts had a total of almost 12 million followers.
This month it admitted it had been “too slow” in tackling hate speech in Myanmar on Facebook.
The company had already pledged to hire more Burmese speakers to monitor hate speech on Facebook, but the removal of the military-linked accounts shows a step-up in actions against those accused of promoting anti-Rohingya rhetoric. The official page of the military’s Myawaddy television network was among those to be taken down.
The Tatmadaw regularly uses its official Facebook pages to discredit allegations of the crimes it has committed in Rahkine and to stir up fears about the Rohingya, who they often referred to as “Bengali terrorists” or “Bengali illegal immigrants”.
Facebook said it had carried out an investigation which found the Tatmadaw “used seemingly independent news and opinion pages to covertly push the messages of the Myanmar military. This type of behaviour is banned on Facebook because we want people to be able to trust the connections they make.”
The Facebook account for the de facto leader of the Myanmar government, Aung San Suu Kyi, was not removed, although there are allegations that it has been used to spread misinformation about the Rohingya and the violence in Rahkine. While Ms Suu Kyi was not implicated by in the UN report, she was criticised for failing to use her “position as head of government, or her moral authority, to stem or prevent the unfolding events in Rakhine state”.
The move by Facebook comes less than a month after it deleted 32 pages and accounts attempting to influence the US midterm elections, and just days after it removed 652 fake Facebook accounts and pages and pages intent on influencing politics in US, UK, Middle East and Latin America. – Guardian