Home / International/ Facebook bans Myanmar army chief, others in unprecedented move

Facebook bans Myanmar army chief, others in unprecedented move


Comments / {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}} Views / Wednesday, 29 August 2018 00:00


YANGON (Reuters): Facebook said on Monday it was removing several Myanmar military officials from the social media website and an Instagram account to prevent the spread of “hate and misinformation” after reviewing the content.

It was the first time Facebook banned a country’s military or political leaders, according to Facebook spokeswoman Ruchika Budhraja. She said the bans could not be appealed.

Facebook also said it removed dozens of accounts for engaging in a campaign that “used seemingly independent news and opinion pages to covertly push the messages of the Myanmar military.”

Facebook’s action came hours after United Nations investigators said the army carried out mass killings and gang rapes of Muslim Rohingya with “genocidal intent.” Their report said the commander-in-chief of Myanmar’s armed forces and five general should be prosecuted for orchestrating the gravest crimes under the law.

Facebook’s Budhraja said the United Nations findings as well as media reports and advocacy groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch informed the company’s decision. Facebook declined to make executives available for comment on the bans.

Facebook’s action means an essential blackout of the military’s main channel of public communication, with pages followed by millions of people no longer available to a population that sees the social media app as virtually synonymous with the internet.

Government spokesman Zaw Htay was not available for comment. He was quoted by local media as saying Myanmar had asked Facebook for further details on the reasons for the ban.

“Specifically, we are banning 20 Burmese individuals and organisations from Facebook – including Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, commander-in-chief of the armed forces, and the military’s Myawady television network,” Facebook said in a blog post.

“We’re removing a total of 18 Facebook accounts, one Instagram account and 52 Facebook Pages, followed by almost 12 million people,” the Menlo Park, California-based company added.

The UN report said Min Aung Hlaing, commander-in-chief of Myanmar’s armed forces, and five generals should be prosecuted for orchestrating the gravest crimes under law.

A preview of Min Aung Hlaing’s Facebook page was still accessible immediately after the announcement and showed it had been “liked” by 1.3 million people. When Reuters attempted to return to it later it had been removed.

The UN investigators highlighted the role of social media in Myanmar in Monday’s report. “Facebook has been a useful instrument for those seeking to spread hate, in a context where for most users Facebook is the Internet,” said the report.

Earlier this month, Reuters published an investigative report about how Facebook had failed to combat a campaign of hate speech against the Rohingya and other Muslims.

The piece, which found more than 1,000 posts, comments and images attacking Muslims on the platform, demonstrated that Facebook, despite repeated warnings, had devoted scant resources to controlling the problem in Myanmar, where it is the dominant social media force. 

Facebook said a day after publication of the investigation that it had been “too slow” to address hate speech in Myanmar and it was acting to remedy the problem by hiring more Burmese speakers and investing in technology to identify problematic content.

Colonel Zaw Min Tun, an official in the military’s public information unit, told Reuters he was not aware the pages had been removed. He declined to comment further.

Some of the military’s Facebook posts from last year included detailed accounts of clashes with Rohingya militants, often accompanied by pictures.

A year ago, government troops led a crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine State in response to attacks by Rohingya insurgents on 30 police posts and a military base.

As a result, some 700,000 Rohingya fled to neighboring Bangladesh, according to UN agencies, bringing stories of rape, arson and arbitrary killings.

Myanmar has denied allegations made by refugees, saying its troops engaged in lawful counterinsurgency operations against Muslim militants.

 


Share This Article


DISCLAIMER:

1. All comments will be moderated by the Daily FT Web Editor.

2. Comments that are abusive, obscene, incendiary, defamatory or irrelevant will not be published.

3. We may remove hyperlinks within comments.

4. Kindly use a genuine email ID and provide your name.

5. Spamming the comments section under different user names may result in being blacklisted.

COMMENTS

Today's Columnists

All the presidents’ mien

Monday, 21 January 2019

I’m conflicted about the presidency we have. Do we need it like a fish needs a bicycle, or a baboon needs a parliament? Has the opportune time come for stakeholders as diverse as civil society led by a free media movement, conscientious objectors t


Banks should subsume technology before technology subsumes them

Monday, 21 January 2019

Returning to IBSL is like ‘coming home’ It is a privilege for me to return to the Institute of Bankers of Sri Lanka, popularly known as IBSL, after the lapse of some 10 years. I had a long association with IBSL from its very beginning – from ar


Ravi K’s discourse on W.A. Wijewardena’s involvement in Treasury bond issue

Monday, 21 January 2019

In his article published previously in the Daily FT, Ravi Karunanayake (the MOF during the period of the infamous CBSL bond scam) appears to have attemptedto pull wool over the eyes andto make a mountain out of a molehill. This exercise gives an impr


Making democracy a national heritage

Monday, 21 January 2019

We are in the year of elections. It is the season of political name calling. Everybody is busy conferring some name on some body. Neo liberal, liberal, dictator, fascist, neo fascist, NGO agent, imperialist lackey are some of these devices that come


Columnists More