9/11? Blame it on Facebook: Deputy Minister of Communications

There’s plenty of room these days to criticize Facebook (plenty), but pinning 9/11 on them might be pushing it a tad too far – particularly as they didn’t exist at the time.

That sort of timeline-y logic somehow escaped Deputy Minister of Transport and Communications U Kyaw Myo yesterday, as he seemed to suggest that terrorists used Facebook, Messenger and Twitter to communicate with each other while coordinating the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York.

For those keeping score at home, Facebook was launched in 2004, while Twitter was launched in 2006.

Kyaw Myo’s comments came as he fielded questions about the effectiveness and purpose of the government’s pricey new Social Media Monitoring Team (SMMT).

“When there is hate speech on social media, conflict will happen in our country. This is part of our work. Like I was saying about the 9/11 attacks, after they attacked New York with airplanes, they found out later that the terrorists used Facebook, Messenger, Twitter and social media to communicate,” Kyaw Myo told local reporters outside the Hluttaw.

Just last week, an MP with the military connected-USDP, U Maung Thin, raised questions about the effectiveness of the SMMT in parliament, asking whether or not the performance of the monitoring team will be subject to oversight.

The SMMT has already spent K6.42 billion (about US$4 million) in emergency funds from the President’s Office for its initial hardware and software.

In an interview in May, the director of National Cyber Security Center, U Ye Naing Myo told the Myanmar Times that the purpose of the SMMT was to “protect the interests of the state and the people and to prevent foreign sources who interfere and incite unrest in Myanmar.” Uh huh.

Critics have raised questions about the ethics of spending money on monitoring defamation and hate speech while other sectors such as education and infrastructure urgently require investment in Myanmar.


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