Tuesday, 25 January, 2022
E-paper

Facebook to ban all Myanmar army-controlled businesses

Facebook to ban all Myanmar army-controlled businesses

BANGKOK: Facebook parent Meta will ban all pages and accounts belonging to Myanmar military-backed businesses, it said, expanding its restraints on the country's armed forces, reports AFP.

Myanmar's secretive military has extensive business interests, with tentacles in industries as diverse as beer, tobacco, transportation, textiles, tourism and banking.

Activists and rights groups say they funded crackdowns and abuses even before the February coup that ousted Aung San Suu Kyi and launched a bloody crackdown on dissent.

In late February Facebook removed all accounts linked to the military, also known as the Tatmadaw, citing the junta's use of deadly force against anti-coup demonstrators.

It also banned military-linked firms from advertising on its platforms.

Meta "will now also remove Pages, Groups and Accounts representing military-controlled businesses", it said in a statement on Tuesday.

The decision was "based on extensive documentation by the international community of these businesses' direct role in funding the Tatmadaw's ongoing violence and human rights abuses in Myanmar", it said.

It would use the report from a 2019 UN fact-finding mission into the military's economic interests "as the basis" for its actions, it added.

The pages of Myawaddy Trading Ltd, Myawaddy Bank and Myanma Beer -- all included in the 2019 report -- were inaccessible as of Wednesday.

A page for a film production company allegedly run by the daughter of junta chief Min Aung Hlaing was also blocked.

Meta did not respond to an AFP request for comment on how long it would take to block all of the pages.

The social media giant -- Myanmar's most popular and influential site -- has been lambasted for years for its ineffective response to malicious posts, particularly against the country's Rohingya Muslims.

It has been accused of being slow to respond to abusive posts portraying Rohingya in sub-human terms, helping to drum up support for a military crackdown that forced more than 740,000 to flee the country in 2017.

On Monday Rohingya refugees sued Facebook for $150 billion over claims the social network is failing to stem hate speech on its platform, exacerbating violence against the vulnerable minority.

The complaint, lodged in a California court, says the algorithms that power the US-based company promote disinformation and extremist thought that translates to real-world violence.

Facebook has been under pressure in the United States and Europe to clamp down on false information, particularly over elections and the coronavirus.

The company has forged partnerships with several media companies, including AFP, intended to verify online posts and remove those that are untrue.