According to Time, Facebook was successful in identifying a covert Myanmar military propaganda campaign. The latter is apparently hosted on the social media giant. This also served as the first evidence that the country’s armed forces were the culprit behind social media posts aimed at the ethnic Rohingya Muslim minority.
A representative from Facebook confirmed that an internal investigation was launched earlier this year. Through it, there were multiple accounts identified and were meant to mislead users into thinking that they came from independent sources of news. At the same time, they tried to disseminate pro-military propaganda and false incendiary content about the aforementioned minority.
The social media giant linked the content to Myanmar’s military, also known locally as the Tatmadaw. This was made possible through examination of public data found on website registration, shared IP addresses, and admins with access to multiple accounts.
The tech giant revealed that it had decided to ban at least 18 accounts and 52 pages in Myanmar. This particularly includes those of senior military figures such as Commander-in-Chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing. The decision =came the same day a U.N. fact-finding mission unveiled a damning report calling for six generals to be charged with crimes, one of which is the genocide over the military’s role in the violent expulsion of Myanmar’s Rohingya population.
From rape to mass killings to burning of villages, these acts of violence forced more than 700,000 of the persecuted – including mostly stateless group – to flee to neighboring Bangladesh since Aug. 25, 2017. This was during the time the military launched a brutal crackdown following a deadly attack on state security forces by Rohingya insurgents.
The U.N. fact-finding mission was basically founded by the Human Rights Council but was banned by the Myanmar government. Eventually, this urged the Security Council to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court. From there, a team of investigators from the U.S. is formed and is expected to unveil similar findings soon.
Both Myanmar’s military and its civilian government have met the accusations, though they all reciprocated with blanket denial. They even claimed that the army has initiated a legitimate counterterrorism operation. A spokesperson for the government rejected the U.N.’s findings, stating that they were merely “false allegations.” Furthermore, he reiterated that the country has “zero tolerance for human rights violations.”
In an official press release from Facebook, the social media giant said that the ethnic violence in Myanmar has been truly horrific. At the same time, they revealed the decision to 20 individuals and organizations responsible in the said violence. The company also confirmed the removal of an additional 46 Pages and 12 individual accounts, all of which are believed to be engaged in “coordinated inauthentic behavior.”
Confirming long-held suspicions of human rights monitors in Myanmar, the company said that this type of behavior resulted in an unacceptable covert propaganda operation. The latter, at the same time, is reportedly linked to military personnel with a combined reach of up to 12 million users.
The figure alone is synonymous with about two-thirds of all Facebook users in the country of 51 million. As far as the names of these banned individuals and pages, the company did not choose to disclose them yet. The investigation, on the other hand, is still ongoing. The people in charge expect to see more being identified and, if possible, banned.
Facebook also confirmed despite more than half of the content on these pages was seemingly benign, pro-military pages planned to redirect all the blame for social unrest away from the army. These pages also criticized the civilian government led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and spread content denying Rohingya claims to being indigenous to the country.