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Years after letting misinformation spread, Facebook bans Myanmar military accounts after coup

Facebook has finally banned a number of accounts linked to Myanmar military, which recently carried out coup in the country

February 25, 2021 | Updated 14:57 IST

Highlights

  • Facebook has finally decided to act against the Myanmar military.
  • Myanmar recently suffered a coup led by the country's military.
  • Facebook is acting years after it came to light that the Myanmar military used social media for misinformation.

In a move that can be called too late and too little, Facebook has finally decided to ban the Myanmar military from Facebook and Instagram. Along with the main page managed by the military, Facebook has also taken action against a number of linked accounts as well as accounts run by entities connected with the Myanmar military. Facebook takes the step days after the Myanmar military carried out a coup in the country.

In a post, Facebook said: "Today, we are banning the remaining Myanmar military ("Tatmadaw") and military-controlled state and media entities from Facebook and Instagram, as well as ads from military-linked commercial entities."

Facebook said that to identify the entities and pages that it needed to ban, it was relying on a 2019 report prepared by the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission that looked at the role of misinformation in the sectarian violence which has plagued Myanmar. The violence has led to the death of many Rohingyas, and several lakhs of them displaced and left without a state. In 2018, a UN report blamed Facebook for aggravating the problem. At that time, a UN official had said, "(Facebook) was used to convey public messages, but we know that the ultra-nationalist Buddhists have their own Facebooks and are really inciting a lot of violence and a lot of hatred against the Rohingya or other ethnic minorities... I'm afraid that Facebook has now turned into a beast and not what it originally intended."

On Wednesday night, Facebook noted that Tatmadaw has a history of "exceptionally severe human rights abuses" and there was a "the clear risk of future military-initiated violence in Myanmar."

"This action builds on the steps we have taken in recent years to prevent the Tatmadaw from abusing our platform," said the company. "Among these are: banning 20 military-linked individuals and organisations in 2018, including Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing, for their role in severe human rights violations; and removing at least six Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior networks run by the Tatmadaw from 2018 to 2020."

Facebook and Twitter, which are often used for misinformation or for spreading rumours, slander and hate speech, have increasingly come under pressure to act against content that might be damaging to individuals or societies. Both companies have struggled with the scale of the problem, though Twitter has been often more decisive while Facebook has often tried to avoid banning people or pages spreading hate speech.

Earlier, a Wall Street Journal report noted that in India, when the company's content moderators flagged posts containing hate speech, in some cases, the top management at Facebook ruled out against taking any actions on those pages and posts. Facebook has often defended its decision to leave the misinformation and hate speech on its platform by saying that it doesn't want to be "arbiters of truth".

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