Facebook announced on Thursday that it’s removing all remaining Myanmar military and military-controlled pages from its site and from Instagram, which it also owns. It said it will also block advertising from military-linked businesses, learned GDC citing 9News Australia.
The move comes in the same week Facebook confirmed it intended to restore Australian news pages and a month after it banned former US President Donald Trump. So why is the digital giant getting involved in Myanmar political issues?
The decision follows a February 1 coup in which the military removed elected leaders from power and jailed others.
Days after the coup, the military temporarily blocked access to Facebook because it was being used to share anti-coup comments and organise protests.
Here’s a look at Facebook’s role in Myanmar and what the banning of the military pages means.
Facebook’s role in Myanmar
For decades Myanmar was one of the least-connected countries in the world, with less than 5per cent of the population using the internet in 2012, according to the International Telecommunication Union.
When telecommunications began to be deregulated by a quasi-civilian government in 2013, the price of SIM cards for mobile phone plummeted, opening a new market of users.
Facebook was quick to capitalise on the changes, and soon began to be used by government agencies and shopkeepers alike to communicate.
Myanmar, also known as Burma, had over 22.3 million Facebook users in January 2020, more than 40per cent of its population, according to social media management platform NapoleonCat. For many in the country, Facebook effectively is the internet.
“The role of Facebook is vital in the country,” said Nickey Diamond, a Myanmar human rights specialist with the group Fortify Rights.
“In Myanmar, Facebook is one of the most important communication platforms to the people.”
Facebook’s role in Rohingya Genocide
The social media platform has faced accusations of not doing enough to quell hate speech in the country.
In a 2018 report on army-led violence which forced more than 700,000 ethnic Rohingya Muslims to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh.
Marzuki Darusman, head of the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, said Facebook “substantively contributed to the level of acrimony and dissension and conflict.”
He added, “Hate speech is certainly of course a part of that.”
Under pressure from the UN and international human rights groups, Facebook banned about 20 Myanmar military-linked individuals and organisations in 2018, including Commander in Chief Min Aung Hlaing, for involvement in severe human rights violations.
Facebook banning more military-linked pages
After the coup, Facebook said it would reduce distribution of all content from Myanmar’s military, called the Tatmadaw, on its site, while also removing content that violates its community standards, including hate speech.
Facebook announced Thursday that it will ban all remaining Myanmar military-related entities from Facebook and Instagram, as well as ads from military-linked businesses.
“Events since the February 1 coup, including deadly violence, have precipitated a need for this ban. We believe the risks of allowing the Tatmadaw on Facebook and Instagram are too great,” the company said a statement.
The ban covers the air force, the navy, the Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Border Affairs, Facebook Policy Communications Manager Amy Sawitta Lefevre said.
Facebook said it will leave up pages contributing to public welfare, including those of the Ministry of Health and Sports and the Ministry of Education.
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