Facebook takes action against Myanmar over Rohingya violence

Accounts for Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and the military’s Myawady television network will be taken down

FILE PHOTO: Myanmar's Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing (L) shakes hands with National League for Democracy (NLD) party leader Aung San Suu Kyi before their meeting in Naypyitaw December 2, 2015. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun/File Photo
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Facebook moved against the Myanmar regime on Monday by taking down a number of accounts and pages, as well as an Instagram account, which the internet giant had identified as being "hate speech".

The relevant pages and accounts had a range of almost 12 million people, and Facebook’s actions came weeks after the company had laid out how they were trying to “prevent the spread of hate and misinformation” on the platform.

In a post on its newsroom feed widely shared by the US special representative to Muslim Communities Shaarik Zafar, the company admitted that it had previously been too slow to act on "hate speech" in the past, but that with the aid of new technology it could now identify examples a lot quicker.

Stating that “the ethnic violence in Myanmar has been truly horrific”, the company announced that it would be “taking more action in Myanmar”, taking down 18 accounts and 52 Facebook pages. It said that it would be “preserving data, including content, on the accounts and pages we have removed”.

Marzuki Darusman, chairperson of the Independent International Fact-finding Mission on Myanmar, informs to the media on the publication of a final written report on Myanmar, during a press conference, at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Monday, Aug. 27, 2018. (Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP)

The main thrust would be to remove individuals at the top of the Myanmar regime: “we are banning 20 individuals and organisations from Facebook in Myanmar – including Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, commander-in-chief of the armed forces, and the military’s Myawady television network”.

Facebook said that prevailing views of these people and organisations, including from the UN Human Rights Council-authorised Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, “had found evidence that many of these individuals and organisations committed or enabled serious human rights abuses in the country. And we want to prevent them from using our service to further inflame ethnic and religious tensions”.


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It said that it would continue to work to stop its platform being used to spread information that was helpful to the regime, which was accused on Monday by the United Nations of being culpable of genocide against the Rohingya Muslims who have been forced out of the country.

“We continue to work to prevent the misuse of Facebook in Myanmar – including through the independent human rights impact assessment we commissioned earlier in the year. This is a huge responsibility given so many people there rely on Facebook for information – more so than in almost any other country given the nascent state of the news media and the recent rapid adoption of mobile phones. It’s why we’re so determined to do better in the future,” the company concluded.

Meanwhile, Lord Tariq Ahmad, the UK Minister for the UN, will use a speech to the Security Council on Tuesday to call on the international community to increase financial support for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.


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“The UK is playing a leading role in bringing an end to this crisis. We need an international political consensus to bring the appalling humanitarian situation to an end,” Lord Ahmad said.

“Bangladesh has done more than its fair share to help the refugees. Now it’s the turn of other countries to step up and provide the money that will help support both refugees and the communities that support them, and for international partners to act together to ensure justice for the victims of the crisis.”