Last week we reported on the military coup in Myanmar, with the undemocratic government installed in the region having requested a blackout on social media platforms until 7th February. Facebook and its associated services were outlined by the government, with many ISPs and networks in the country acquiescing to demands.
Facebook was targeted in particular as it was viewed as “inciting violence” among those who apposed the military coup. It is also a platform that many people rely to get their news, which is another reason why coup leaders want it to be inaccessible.
In response, Facebook recently highlighted the steps it is staking to fight back against the military government’s efforts, and in particular that its platform is not used to spread misinformation.
“Our focus is three-fold: First, do everything we can to prevent online content from being linked to offline harm and keep our community safe. Second, protect freedom of expression for the tens of millions of Myanmar citizens who rely on Facebook now more than ever. Third, ensure that Facebook, Messenger and our family of apps stay online as a source of information and means of communication,” explains Rafael Frankel, director of Policy for APAC Emerging Countries, in a blog post.
“Facebook is treating the situation in Myanmar as an emergency. Our Integrity Operations Center has been running around the clock since the coup began. It brings together subject matter experts from across the company, including Myanmar nationals with native language skills, so we can monitor and respond to any threats in real time,” he adds.
Part of the company’s efforts include the significant reduction in visibility for pages and profiles run by “Tatmadaw”, which is the name that the military coup group is know by. These same pages and profiles will also no longer be recommended as an additional measure to decrease visibility.
“Among other military-run accounts, these measures apply to the Tatmadaw Information Team’s Facebook Page and to Tatmadaw spokesperson Brigadier-General Zaw Min Tun’s Facebook account. This same action will be applied to any additional pages that the military controls that repeatedly violate our misinformation policies,” Frankel notes.
“Simultaneously, we are protecting content, including political speech, that allows the people of Myanmar to express themselves and to show the world what is transpiring inside their country,” he continues.
As for why these pages and profiles are not simply removed altogether, given the severity of the situation, is unclear, but at the very least it is pleasing to see Facebook take some action, especially as it was woefully ignorant in 2017 when violent attacks were coordinated in Myanmar using the platform.