Facebook bans Myanmar’s military accounts after deadly coup

Pro-military supporters throw projectiles at residents in Yangon on February 25, 2021, following weeks of mass demonstrations against the military coup.

Sai Aung Main | AFP | Getty Images

SINGAPORE — Myanmar’s military has been banned from using Facebook and Instagram with immediate effect, Facebook said in a blog post on Thursday.

“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,” the statement said, referring to the official name of Myanmar’s armed forces.

Military-controlled state and media companies will also be blocked from the two social media platforms, while army-linked commercial firms will not be able to run advertisements.

The coup greatly increases the danger posed by the behaviors above, and the likelihood that online threats could lead to offline harm.

The ban does not affect government ministries and agencies that provide essential public services, such as the health ministry and the education ministry, the social media giant said.

Myanmar’s army seized power on Feb. 1, after arresting members of the democratically elected government, including Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. The military claimed there was voter fraud in last year’s election and declared a one-year state of emergency.

Thousands of people have protested the coup, and clashes with authorities have sometimes turned violent. Reports say at least three protesters and one policeman have died so far.

Facebook said it has in recent years removed content from military pages and accounts for violating its community standards and to prevent the Tatmadaw from abusing the platform.

It will now “indefinitely” suspend the army accounts, the company said, citing reasons such as the military’s history of “exceptionally severe human rights abuses and the clear risk of future military-initiated violence in Myanmar.”

It added that the military has been trying to rebuild networks involving misrepresentation and upload content that was previously removed for breaching Facebook’s policies against violence, incitement and coordinating harm.

“The coup greatly increases the danger posed by the behaviors above, and the likelihood that online threats could lead to offline harm,” Facebook said.

report commissioned by Facebook found in 2018 that the social media giant had previously failed to stop the platform “from being used to foment division and incite offline violence.”

“We agree that we can and should do more,” Facebook said at that time.

In 2018, the tech giant banned military-linked individuals and organizations, including junta leader Min Aung Hlaing, the general who mounted the recent coup.

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