Yangon: Facebook has said that it is banning Myanmar’s powerful military chief and 19 other individuals and organisations from its site to prevent the spread of hate and misinformation. The social media giant was heavily criticised for permitting itself to be used to inflame ethnic and religious conflict in the country, particularly against minority Rohingya Muslims.
It has been accused of being lax in fighting online misinformation and manipulation in many countries, but Myanmar is one where it has been most closely tied to deadly violence. Some 700,000 Rohingya have fled from Myanmar’s western state of Rakhine over the past year in response to a brutal counterinsurgency campaign by the military, which has been accused of massive human rights violations.
Critics accuse the military of carrying out ethnic cleansing, or even genocide, an allegation denied by the government, which says it was responding to attacks on security forces. Facebook said yesterday it also targeted pages and accounts that pretended to provide independent news and opinion, while covertly promoting messages of Myanmar’s military.
It said it was deleting 18 Facebook accounts, one Instagram account and 52 Facebook pages.
A separate report by investigators working for the UN’s top human rights body, released yesterday, charged that “Facebook has been a useful instrument for those seeking to spread hate, in a context where for most users Facebook is the internet.” “Although improved in recent months, Facebook’s response has been slow and ineffective,” said the report by the Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, authorized by the UN Human Rights Council.
“The extent to which Facebook posts and messages have led to real-world discrimination and violence must be independently and thoroughly examined.” Four high-ranking officers and two military units targeted by Facebook were also put on a US government blacklist earlier this month for human rights abuses.
The sanctions block any property they own within the US and prohibit US citizens from engaging in transactions with them. The US already maintains restrictions on visas, arms sales and assistance to Myanmar’s military. In June, the EU imposed similar sanctions on seven senior army and police officers, all of whom are on Facebook’s blacklist.
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.