Facebook makes fresh sweep of bogus accounts, some connected to army

Images from phony Facebook accounts removed by the social media giant on Aug. 21. Photo courtesy Facebook
Images from phony Facebook accounts removed by the social media giant on Aug. 21. Photo courtesy Facebook

Just two days after eliminating a number of China-based pages and accounts engaging in “coordinated inauthentic behavior” aimed at the Hong Kong protest movement, Facebook is once again performing a similar house-cleaning in Myanmar.

In a statement released last night, the social media giant said they had “removed 89 Facebook accounts, 107 Facebook Pages, 15 Facebook Groups, and five Instagram accounts for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior that originated in Myanmar.”

While the people behind the accounts, which were said to have “frequently repurposed legitimate news and entertainment content,” attempted to hide their identity, some were traced back to — you guessed it — the Myanmar military.

Only a year ago, the platform took its first serious stab at tackling what was an increasingly public black eye, namely, the role social media had played in the unfolding ethnic cleansing in Rakhine state. While some debated how much Facebook could be fairly blamed for violence against the Rohingya Muslim minority, there was little doubt it had a significant role in the rapid proliferation of hate speech.

Among the accounts deleted at the time was that of Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, supreme commander of the Myanmar Armed Forces. In its statement at the time, Facebook specifically referenced “truly horrific” ethnic violence, and cited human rights violations outlined by a UN fact-finding mission.

In the next four months, the social media platform would go on to remove more than 570 pages and accounts, again citing “coordinated inauthentic behavior.” They also closed at least 15 accounts on Instagram, which is owned by Facebook.

Twitter was slower to react, only just this past May finally suspending the account of Min Aung Hlaing, who had routinely used the platform to insist that there was no use of “excessive force” in the August 2017 military campaign that drove more than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims into neighboring Bangladesh, precipitating one of the largest refugee crises in the world.

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