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

Constitutional paradox: There is no such thing called Election Commission

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Our Constitution, which was certified by Parliament on 31 August 1978, has 19 amendments; the First Amendment to the Constitution was certified by the Speaker in the same year on 20 November. By the end of 1988, there had been 14 amendments made to t


‘So Sri Lanka’ – upgrade staff, processes, infrastructure at BIA arrivals to be world’s best!

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

24 October, time 12:47 p.m., place – my residence in Colombo My phone buzzes with a WhatsApp message from my old colleague Prasad Fernanado now with Saudi British Bank in Saudi. I am thrilled to see the message ‘Sri Lanka top country for travel i


Qatar crisis: From the Sri Lankans’ point of view

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

The aim of this article is to examine the Saudi blockade over Qatar and its impact in the past 17 months on the country. A special focus will be given to the Sri Lankan workers who have been living in Qatar for the past two decades. The reason why th


The reality of Sri Lanka – household end!

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Whilst Sri Lanka is debating what is right and wrong on the governance of the country, the Sri Lankan household is falling part due to escalating costs, as per the latest data released by respected research agency Nielsen. For the seventh quarter in


Columnists More