Technology

Facebook expands ban on firms tied to Myanmar military

Associated Press/Tony Avelar

Meta, the parent company for Facebook, announced on Wednesday that it would be expanding its ban on the Myanmar military to include accounts, pages and groups with ties to military-controlled businesses.

“We’re taking this latest action based on extensive documentation by the international community of these businesses’ direct role in funding the Tatmadaw’s ongoing violence and human rights abuses in Myanmar,” Rafael Frankel, director of public policy for APAC emerging countries at Meta, said in an update.

“This has formed the basis for escalating sanctions imposed by the US, EU, and other governments, and has been chronicled in painstaking reporting by civil society and human rights organizations,” he continued.

Noting that the military’s commercial efforts are far-reaching and “not always possible to definitively determine,” he noted that the organization was using a United Nations report from 2019 to assist in their efforts.

The news comes only two days after a lawsuit filed against Facebook by Rohingya refugees from Myanmar alleges that the social media platform did not do an adequate enough job to tackle hate speech against the ethnic minority.

“Because Facebook’s algorithms recommend that susceptible users join extremist groups, where users are conditioned to post even more inflammatory and divisive content, it is naturally open to exploitation by autocratic politicians and regimes,” the lawsuit alleged. 

“By using large numbers of fake accounts [that Facebook not only fails to police but actually likes because they inflate the user data Facebook presents to the financial markets], these regimes can repeatedly post, like, share, and comment on content attacking ethnic minorities or political opponents. Because that content appears to generate high engagement, Facebook’s algorithms prioritize it in the News Feeds of real users,” it continued.

A Meta spokesperson said in a statement earlier this week that the company has taken a series of steps to target misinformation and “violating content.”

“We’ve built a dedicated team of Burmese speakers, banned the Tatmadaw, disrupted networks manipulating public debate and taken action on harmful misinformation to help keep people safe. We’ve also invested in Burmese-language technology to reduce the prevalence of violating content. This work is guided by feedback from experts, civil society organizations and independent reports, including the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar’s findings and the independent Human Rights Impact Assessment we commissioned and released in 2018,” the spokesperson said.

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