SAN FRANCISCO – Facebook announced Wednesday that it banned Myanmar’s militarily and militarily controlled state and media units from its platforms weeks after the military toppled the country’s fragile democratic government.
The move plunged the social network directly into Myanmar’s post-coup politics – and left no question unanswered that it was picking sides in a heated political struggle.
After years of criticism of how the Myanmar military used the website, Facebook acted, among other things, to incite hatred against the country’s mostly Muslim Rohingya minority. Since the coup earlier this month that toppled civilian leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and returned Myanmar to full military rule, the military has repeatedly shut down the internet and blocked access to major social media sites, including Facebook.
The social network went offline a few days ago on the main news site of the Myanmar military and another site on the state television channel. Official reports by high-ranking military leaders in Myanmar linked to the violence in Rohingya in 2018 were also deleted. However, many other sites related to the military were still online.
Now Facebook has taken further measures to make it clear that it is making a political judgment. In a statement, the company said it banned “remaining” accounts related to the military because the coup was “an emergency”.
“Events since the February 1 coup, including deadly violence, have sparked the need for this ban,” the company said. The risk of leaving the Myanmar military on Facebook and Instagram is “too great”. It was said that the military was banned indefinitely.
The action underscores the difficulty Facebook is facing in terms of what it allows on its website. Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, has long advocated freedom of speech and merely positions the website as a platform and technology service that does not stand in the way of government or social disputes.
But Mr Zuckerberg has been increasingly scrutinized by lawmakers, regulators and users for this attitude and for allowing hate speech, misinformation and content that incites violence on Facebook.
Over time, Facebook has become more active, which is published on its platform, especially last year with the US election. Last year it hit pages and posts on the QAnon conspiracy theory movement. And last month, Facebook banned then-President Donald J. Trump from using the service for at least the remainder of his tenure after urging his supporters to oppose the election results, sparking a riot in the U.S. Capitol. Mr. Trump still cannot post on Facebook.
Critics have said that many of these steps were too little, too late.