Technology

Fb bans Myanmar’s army accounts after a lethal coup

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Pro-military supporters throw projectiles at residents in Yangon on February 25, 2021 after weeks of mass demonstrations against the military coup.

Sai Aung Main | AFP | Getty Images

SINGAPORE – Myanmar’s military has been banned from using Facebook and Instagram immediately, Facebook said in a blog post on Thursday.

“Events since the February 1 coup, including deadly violence, have sparked the need for this ban. We believe the risk of allowing the Tatmadaw to appear on Facebook and Instagram is too great,” the statement said, referring to the official name of the armed forces in Myanmar.

Military-controlled state and media companies are also excluded from the two social media platforms, while trading companies affiliated with the army cannot advertise.

The coup greatly increases the danger posed by the above behaviors and the likelihood that online threats can lead to offline damage.

The ban does not affect ministries and agencies that provide essential public services, such as the ministry of health and education, the social media giant said.

Myanmar’s army took power on February 1 after arresting members of the democratically elected government, including Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi. The military alleged electoral fraud in last year’s elections and declared a state of emergency for a year.

Thousands of people protested the coup, and clashes with authorities have sometimes become violent. At least three protesters and one police officer have reportedly died so far.

Facebook said it had removed content from military sites in recent years, stating that it violated its community standards and prevented the Tatmadaw from abusing the platform.

It will now block the accounts of the army “indefinitely”, the company said, citing reasons such as the history of the military with “exceptionally serious human rights violations and the clear risk of future military-initiated violence in Myanmar”.

It added that the military has tried to rebuild misrepresented networks and upload content that was previously removed for violating Facebook’s guidelines against violence, incitement and coordination of harm.

“The coup greatly increases the risk posed by the above behaviors and the likelihood that online threats can lead to offline damage,” Facebook said.

A 2018 report commissioned by Facebook found that the social media giant had not previously prevented the platform from “promoting the division and inciting offline violence”.

“We agree that we can and should do more,” said Facebook at the time.

In 2018, the tech giant banned military-related individuals and organizations, including junta leader Min Aung Hlaing, the general who denied the recent coup.

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Katherine Clark