Facebook Banned Myanmar Military Officials To Stop Them From Spreading Hate

The first was announced in response to allegations that posts on the platform had contributed to violence in Myanmar.

Facebook is banning Myanmar's military chief, Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, and 19 others from its site in an unprecedented move meant to prevent the spread of "hate and misinformation."

The social media network released a statement on Monday announcing the removal of a total of 52 Facebook pages, 18 accounts, and one Instagram profile, which were cumulatively followed by almost 12 million people.

The move comes the same day that the U.N.'s Human Rights Council released a report stating that, "Facebook has been a useful instrument for those seeking to spread hate, in a context where for most users Facebook is the internet."

The company addressed the claim in a blog post, writing, "International experts, most recently in a report by the UN Human Rights Council-authorized Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, have found evidence that many of these individuals and organizations 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 tension."

Several of the removed social media pages were reportedly used to promote messages from Myanmar's military while marketing themselves as independent news services — an act of "coordinated inauthentic behavior" that Facebook says is forbidden on its site. 

Other bans were preemptive, blocking individuals and groups who weren't yet active on Facebook from ever having a presence on the site. 

"We continue to work to prevent the misuse of Facebook in Myanmar," the company wrote in its statement. "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."

According to CNN, this is the first time that Facebook has ever "banned a military or state actor." The company has faced heavy criticism in the past for its lax approach to fighting the spread of misinformation or inflammatory speech, which has contributed to the ongoing ethnic violence in Myanmar, particularly against the minority popularity of Rohingya Muslims.  

Facebook acknowledged its initial failure to take action in its statement, writing, "While we were too slow to act, we're now making progress – with better technology to identify hate speech, improved reporting tools, and more people to review content."

Cover image via JaysonPhotography / Shutterstock.com.

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