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Facebook has reacted quickly and taken down many accounts of Myanmar’s military leaders after a damning UN report accused them of genocide and war crimes against the Muslim Rohingya population.
It has been reported that, following the release of the report, Facebook removed a total of 18 user accounts, and 52 pages associated with the Myanmar military. These are thought to include the page of its commander-in-chief.
All of the removed pages and accounts are thought to have had a total of almost 12 million followers.
The Situation, In Brief
The action by Facebook relates to the situation in Myanmar, formerly Burma, where approximately 25,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed and an estimated 700,000 forced to flee to Bangladesh in over the past year. The blame for the alleged genocide has been placed firmly at the door of the Myanmar military, and the country’s leader and Nobel Prize winner, Ang San Suu Kyi, has been widely criticised for apparently failing to use her position as head of government, or her moral authority, to stop the persecution and violence in Rakhine state.
Facebook – Several Reasons
As well as the fact that the accounts relate to suspected war criminals, Facebook has several reasons to act quickly in taking down the accounts of military leaders and their associates, including the fact that:
– Facebook, by its own admission, had been too slow up until now in acting to remove posts aimed at stirring up and spreading hatred against the minority Muslim Rohingya population.
– Facebook is a very popular social network in Myanmar, and thus bad as well as good messages can be distributed widely and quickly using the platform.
– The Tatmadaw (the official name of the armed forces of Myanmar) has been using its official Facebook pages to discredit allegations of the crimes it has committed, and to stir-up further fears about the Rohingya. Also, the Tatmadaw are thought to have been using bogus independent news and opinion pages to covertly push their own messages.
– Facebook is very aware that it has been used as a means to influence political opinion and even election outcomes in some other countries i.e. alleged Russian use of Facebook in the US election. This has made Facebook anxious to stop this happening.
– The social network, along with other platforms, apps, and tech giants, has long been accused by many different governments of failing to act / failing to act quickly enough to remove hate speech and racist content.
– Facebook and other platforms have been threatened with regulation e.g. Ofcom in the UK, and Facebook is anxious to claw back much of the trust it lost in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, as well as getting some good publicity.
What Does This Mean For Your Business?
Most businesses like to operate in and associate themselves with stable countries, particularly where they feel the government is trustworthy, and where the military don’t have too much power. The cost in human suffering in events and circumstances in Myanmar have been terrible, and this has also caused the economy to suffer, as its growth has slowed, it’s currency has dropped against the dollar, and as other countries and potential trading partners have tried to distance themselves from the current regime.
For Facebook, this has been a much-needed opportunity to present its positive side and show that it can and will act quickly to police its own network where it feels it has credible and conclusive evidence to do so, and to be able to justify its actions. This has been something that Facebook appears to have been much more keen to do lately e.g. in deleting 30+ pages and accounts attempting to influence the US midterm elections, and in removing 650+ fake Facebook accounts and pages, and pages designed to influence politics in US and the UK, as well as in the Middle East and Latin America.
The power and responsibility of social network platforms is now beginning to become apparent. Businesses are now major advertisers on social networks too, and as such, they need to ensure that they can reach the right audience in enough numbers and that their advertising doesn’t suffer from negative associations or being displayed next to content or posts that promote hatred.