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Facebook bans Myanmar military in wake of coup

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Facebook banned Myanmar’s military and military-controlled state media entities from its platform, the company said Wednesday evening, in the wake of a coup earlier this month. 

The update, including a ban on ads from commercial entities linked to the military, follows restrictions Facebook put in place to reduce the distribution of content of pages run by Myanmar’s military after the country’s democratic government was overthrown.

“Events since the February 1 coup, including deadly violence, have precipitated a need for this ban. We believe the risks of allowing the Tatmadaw on Facebook and Instagram are too great,” Facebook’s director of policy for Asia-Pacific emerging countries, Rafael Frankel, said in the updated blog post, referring to Myanmar’s military. 

Facebook said it will use a 2019 report from the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar to guide its efforts to prohibit commercial entities linked to the military from advertising on the platform. 

The ban will remain in effect indefinitely, Facebook said. 

The platform said its decision was guided by the Myanmar military’s history of “exceptionally severe human rights abuses,” as well as the likelihood that online threats could lead to offline harm. Additionally, Facebook cited “ongoing violations” of the military-linked accounts, including efforts to reconstitute networks of coordinated inauthentic behavior that were previously removed. 

The ban does not cover government ministries and agencies, Facebook noted. 

The United Nations released a report in 2018 about the mass fleeing of more than 700,000 Rohingya people from Myanmar. On year earlier, the U.N. high commissioner had called the military’s efforts, which led to the death of thousands of Rohingya and forced hundreds of thousands to flee, a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” 

The platform cracked down on some accounts associated with Myanmar’s military after the 2018 report and has since taken more efforts to block and remove accounts linked to the military and a military-owned telecom services provider. 

Facebook has faced scrutiny for years over the platform being used as a tool to help spread misinformation and fuel violence against the Rohingya. 

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