Facebook bans Myanmar military chief, removes 70 accounts and pages over ‘hate and misinformation’

Senior General Min Aung Hlaing poses in a helicopter. Photo: Facebook

Facebook has removed 18 personal accounts, one Instagram account, and 52 pages linked to the “spread of hate and misinformation” during the Myanmar military’s clearance operations against Rohingya communities in Rakhine State last year. Among the deleted accounts is that of Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, the supreme commander of the Myanmar Armed Forces.

The purge comes on the same day that a UN-appointed fact-finding mission submitted a report to the UN Human Rights Council calling for Min Aung Hlaing and other military leaders to be “investigated and prosecuted for genocide” and other crimes against humanity.

“International experts, most recently in a report by the UN Human Rights Council-authorized Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, have found evidence that many of these individuals and organizations committed or enabled serious human rights abuses in the country. And we want to prevent them from using our service to further inflame ethnic and religious tensions,” Facebook said in its announcement today.

The company has also banned 20 individuals and organizations from the platform, including the senior general and the military-run Myawady news agency, 12 of whom were among the deleted accounts and eight that do not have Facebook accounts but were banned nonetheless.

Among the senior general’s most inflammatory posts on Facebook was one posted in Sept. 2017, during the height of the assault on Rohingya communities, in which he said: “The Bengali problem was a long-standing one which has become an unfinished job despite the efforts of the previous governments to solve it.”

A Facebook spokesperson told Coconuts via email that Myawady’s page was removed from the platform because it was “run by an account whose owner had been found by international experts to have committed serious human rights abuses in the country.”

Other accounts and pages were removed because they were found to have “used seemingly independent news and opinion Pages to covertly push the messages of the Myanmar military.”

Facebook admitted that it was “too slow to act” to prevent misinformation and hate speech during the operations that sent more than 700,000 Rohingya fleeing from Myanmar but said it was “determined to do better in the future.”

A new page named “Senior General Min Aung Hlaing” appeared on Facebook today but was removed within a few hours.

The 20 banned individuals and pages are:

  • Senior General Min Aung Hlaing
  • Commander-in-Chief of Defense Services (Burmese)
  • Vice Senior General Soe Win
  • Brigadier General Khin Maung Soe
  • Brigadier General Aung Aung
  • Brigadier General Than Oo
  • Gen. Aung Kyaw Zaw
  • Major General Aung Myo Thu
  • Major General Maung Maung Soe
  • Brigadier General Thura San Lwin
  • Major Thant Zaw Win
  • Officer Tun Naing
  • Border Guard Police Corporal Kyaw Chay
  • Staff Sergeant Ba Kyaw
  • Khin Hlaing (99th LID Leader)
  • Thant Zin Oo
  • 33rd Light Infantry Division
  • 99th Light Infantry Division
  • Myawady
  • Phay Sit Gyi

The Facebook spokesperson told Coconuts that the company will not publicly release the broader list of removed accounts and pages because it is “working to understand whether there may be more related activity, and we don’t want sharing the names to hamper those efforts.”

When asked whether more pages and accounts will be removed, the spokesperson said: “Our work isn’t done. We will continue to investigate and take action when we have enough facts to do so.”

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