After failing to stem hate speech and disinformation fueled genocide in Myanmar, Facebook is now announcing its intention to take proactive content moderation measures following an ongoing military coup in the country.
In an internal message posted Monday evening and viewed by BuzzFeed News, Rafael Frankel, public policy director for the Asia-Pacific region, told employees that the social network was monitoring the “volatile situation” in Myanmar “with grave concern” and described a series of measures aimed at cracking down on those who used them to spread disinformation or threaten violence.
As part of the measures, Facebook has designated Myanmar as a “temporary high-risk location” for two weeks, allowing the company to remove content and events in the country that include “any call to bring in armaments.” The social network had previously applied this designation to Washington, DC, following the insurgency on the U.S. Capitol on January 6.
The social network, which touted its efforts to protect the integrity of Myanmar’s national elections in November, also said it would protect posts criticizing the military and its coup, and follow reports from Pages and accounts hacked or taken over by the military. .
“The November election in Myanmar was an important moment in the country’s transition to democracy, although it was not without challenges, as international human rights groups have pointed out,” wrote Frankel. “This turn of events reminds us of the days we hoped were in Myanmar’s past and reminds us of basic rights that should never be taken for granted.”
Facebook’s actions come after Burmese army chief Gen. Min Aung Hlaing took control of the country’s government and arrested his elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other members of his League party on Monday. National Democracy (NLD). After the election in which the NLD won the majority of seats in Myanmar’s parliament, military-backed opposition groups called the results fraudulent and demanded dismissal.
Tuesday, the US State Department officially designated the takeover of the army in Myanmar as a coup, triggering financial sanctions.
“After a review of all the facts, we considered that the actions of the Burmese army on February 1, after deposing the duly elected head of government, constituted a military coup,” said an official of the Burmese Department. State in a briefing, using the name the US government uses to refer to the country.
In a statement to BuzzFeed News, Facebook confirmed the actions described in Frankel’s post and said it would remove content that praises or supports the coup.
“We are prioritizing the safety of people in Myanmar and removing content that violates our rules on violence, hate speech and harmful disinformation,” Frankel said. “This includes removing misinformation that delegitimizes the November election result.”
Facebook is taking action in a country where it has already been condemned by the international community for its handling of the displacement and genocide of Rohingya Muslims that began in 2016. In 2018, United Nations investigators found that senior military officials in the Myanmar had used Facebook, which have content moderators in the country, to instigate fear and spread hate speech.
“The extent to which Facebook posts and messages have led to discrimination in the real world needs to be independently and thoroughly investigated,” UN investigators concluded in their report.
In Monday’s post, Frankel said Facebook was using “a number of product interventions that have been used in the past in Myanmar and during the US elections, to ensure that the platform is not used. to spread disinformation, incite violence or coordinate harm ”.
The company works to secure the accounts of activists and journalists “who are at risk or have been arrested” and to remove content that threatens or calls for violence against them, Frankel wrote. The company will also protect “critical information about what is happening on the ground”, given the restrictions placed on news organizations in the country.
Facebook’s work is an ongoing effort. On Tuesday, he deleted a page from Myanmar’s military television network on Monday evening, following inquiries from the wall street journal. While the company banned a page from the Myawaddy TV network in 2018 during a crackdown on hundreds of accounts linked to the Burmese army, a new page has reappeared and has collected 33,000 likes.
Facebook has often been criticized for facilitating the growth of violent and extremist groups and its ineffectiveness in stemming disinformation. More recently, a tech watchdog accused the company of instigating the unrest that led to the murderous coup attempt in the United States.
“[Facebook] has spent the last year failing to suppress extremist activity and election-related conspiracy theories fueled by President Trump that have radicalized large sections of the population and led many down a dangerous path, ”the Tech Transparency Project (TTP) said in a report.
The report revealed specific threats made to pro-Trump and militant groups on Facebook before and after Joe Biden’s election victory in November.