Facebook Shuts Hundreds More Pages Linked to Myanmar Military

By Nan Lwin 19 December 2018

YANGON—As part of its ongoing effort to remove hate speech from its platform, Facebook on Tuesday said it had purged nearly 600 hundred additional accounts, pages and groups with links to the Myanmar military for engaging in “coordinated inauthentic behavior”. Critics have accused Facebook of contributing to outbreaks of deadly violence in Myanmar by allowing the spread of inflammatory rhetoric targeting ethnic communities.

This is the third time Facebook has targeted activity related to the Myanmar military (or Tatmadaw). In August, following the release of a UN Fact-Finding Mission report that found evidence of genocide in Rakhine State, the company removed 18 Facebook accounts, one Instagram account and 52 Facebook pages, including those of armed forces commander-in-chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and the military’s Myawaddy television network.

More than 700,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar for neighboring Bangladesh since last August as a result of the Tatmadaw’s clearance operations, which followed attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) on military and security outposts in northern Rakhine State.

Facebook is the most popular social media platform in Myanmar with 18 million local users. Since its arrival in the country, the volume of hate speech against minority groups—particularly the Rohingya in Rakhine State—has exploded.

Facebook said the move was the result of its ongoing investigation into this type of behavior in Myanmar. The company’s latest action removed 425 Facebook Pages, 17 Facebook Groups, 135 Facebook accounts and 15 Instagram accounts it said were posing as independent news, entertainment, beauty and lifestyle pages.

“This kind of behavior is not allowed on Facebook under our misrepresentation policy because we don’t want people or organizations creating networks of accounts to mislead others about who they are, or what they’re doing,” Facebook said.

It said the decision to remove pages was based on the behavior of the actors rather than on the type of content they were posting.

It had discovered that the pages, accounts and groups were linked to the military and to pages or persons previously removed from Facebook.

Facebook said one of the closed pages had 2.5 million followers, while one of the closed Facebook groups had 6,400 followers and one of the Instagram accounts had 1,300 followers.

Some of the most-followed of the banned Facebook Pages were “Down for Anything,” “Let’s Laugh Casually”, “We Love Myanmar Knowledge” and “All About Myanmar,” according to Facebook Newsroom.

“Our investigations in Myanmar are ongoing and we will continue to provide updates on abuse we find and remove,” Facebook said.

In October, the company removed 13 Pages and 10 accounts associated with violence against Rohingya Muslims for engaging in “coordinated inauthentic behavior”. Among the removed items was a page containing collections of soldiers’ photos.