Facebook has banned Myanmar military (Tatmadaw) and military-controlled state and media entities from its Facebook and Instagram platforms. Facebook also prohibited Tatmadaw-linked commercial entities from advertising on its platforms. The ban comes after the Myanmar military seized power on February 1, 2021, from Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) by allegedly detaining her.
“Events since the February 1 coup, including deadly violence, have precipitated a need for this ban. We believe the risks of allowing the Tatmadaw on Facebook and Instagram are too great. We’re continuing to treat the situation in Myanmar as an emergency and we remain focused on the safety of our community, and the people of Myanmar more broadly,” Facebook said.
Why Facebook did this?
Facebook claimed that it removed military pages and accounts based on four guiding factors, which include:
- The Tatmadaw’s history of exceptionally severe human rights abuses and the clear risk of future military-initiated violence in Myanmar, where the military is operating unchecked and with wide-ranging powers.
- The Tatmadaw’s history of on-platform content and behavior violations led to us repeatedly enforcing our policies to protect our community.
- Ongoing violations by the military and military-linked accounts and pages since the February 1 coup, including efforts to reconstitute networks of Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior that we previously removed, and content that violates our violence and incitement and coordinating harm policies, which we removed.
- The coup greatly increases the danger posed by the behaviors above and the likelihood that online threats could lead to offline harm.
Since the coup, Facebook disabled the Tatmadaw True News Information Team Page and MRTV Live Pages for violating the platform’s policies. The social media giant also decreased the distribution of content on 23 pages and profiles operated by the Tatmadaw. However, the ban does not cover government ministries and agencies engaged in the provision of essential public services, which includes the Ministry of Health and Sport and the Ministry of Education.
“This action builds on the steps we have taken in recent years to prevent the Tatmadaw from abusing our platform. Among these are: banning 20 military-linked individuals and organizations in 2018, including Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing, for their role in severe human rights violations; and removing at least six Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior networks run by the Tatmadaw from 2018 to 2020,” Facebook added.
Tatmadaw’s Controversial Cybersecurity Bill
Recently, Myanmar’s military junta has drafted a cybersecurity bill that caused an uproar among human rights campaigners. According to several activists, the new law will grant authorities sweeping powers over the internet including allowing the military to ban content it dislikes, restrict internet providers, and even intercept data. They believe the cybersecurity bill will violate human rights, including the rights to freedom of expression, data protection, and privacy.