Facebook removes more pages, accounts linked to Tatmadaw


YANGON — Facebook has removed more pages and accounts linked to the Tatmadaw in its latest attempt to limit the spread of fake news and hate speech on its platform in Myanmar, media reports said.

The social media giant said in an October 15 blog post that it had removed 13 pages and 10 accounts that were “engaging in coordinated inauthentic behaviour on Facebook in Myanmar”.

Facebook said the accounts reached up to 1.35 million people.

The decision to shut down the accounts came hours after an investigation into the use of Facebook in Myanmar was published in the New York Times.

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The newspaper said its investigation found that the Tatmadaw had been involved in an anti-Rohingya campaign that involved hundreds of military personnel creating news and celebrity pages on Facebook and then flooding them with hate-filled comments from troll accounts.

“We want to make it more difficult for people to manipulate our platform in Myanmar and will continue to investigate and take action on this behavior,” Facebook said in the blog post, in which it thanked the NYT for its investigation.

The newspaper said some of the material on the pages and accounts was created at a high-security facility near the capital, Nay Pyi Taw.

In an unprecedented move in late August, Facebook removed 52 pages and 18 accounts, including that of Tatmadaw Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, and the military’s Myawady television station.

The pages and accounts were followed by nearly 12 million people.

Facebook said its decision to ban to ban a country’s military or political leaders for the first time was taken to prevent the spread of “hate and misinformation”.

It also said the dozens of pages and accounts had been removed because they had engaged in a campaign that “used seemingly independent news and opinion pages to covertly push the messages of the Myanmar military”.

The August 27 decision by Facebook came hours after the release of an interim report by a United Nations Fact-Finding Mission that said the “clearance operation” launched by the Tatmadaw in northern Rakhine State after attacks by Islamic militants in August last year had been conducted with “genocidal intent”.

The UN report said Min Aung Hlaing and five other generals should be prosecuted for orchestrating the gravest crimes under the law.

The UN investigators highlighted the role of social media in spreading hate speech in Myanmar.

“Facebook has been a useful instrument for those seeking to spread hate, in a context where for most users Facebook is the internet,” the report said.

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