A Day After Rohingya Refugees Sued Facebook for $150B, the Company Announced Some Changes

BANGKOK — Facebook’s parent company Meta said Wednesday it has expanded its ban on postings linked to Myanmar’s military to include all pages, groups, and accounts representing military-controlled businesses. This ban was already in place for such companies since February.

The February action, which also banned military and military-controlled state and media entities from Facebook and Instagram, followed the army’s seizure of power from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.

The new action came just a day after a high-profile lawsuit was filed in California against Facebook parent Meta Platforms seeking over $150 billion for the company’s alleged failure to stop hateful posts that incited violence against the Muslim Rohingya minority by Myanmar’s military and its supporters, which crested in 2017.
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The army, known in Myanmar as the Tatmadaw, was notorious for a brutal counterinsurgency campaign in Myanmar’s western state of Rakhine, which drove more than 700,000 Rohingya to seek safety across the border in Bangladesh. Critics claim the campaign which involved mass killings and rape, as well as arson and arson was ethnic cleansing.

Since February’s takeover, security forces have used lethal force to put down nonviolent protests against military rule. The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners has compiled a comprehensive list of civilians who have been murdered by security forces. As it battles pro-democracy militias from the countryside, the army is also accused of committing abuses of villagers.

According to activists the military spreads hate speech through the internet. In April, Facebook announced it was “implementing a specific policy for Myanmar to remove praise, support and advocacy of violence by Myanmar security forces and protestors from our platform.”

The group Burma Campaign UK, which had sought to get Facebook do more to curb the military’s reach through its platforms, welcomed the move but noted that Facebook had resisted taking down military companies’ pages.

“The belated decision to remove military company pages appears more an act of desperation after being sued for $150 billion for being involved in Rohingya genocide than any genuine concern for human rights,” Burma Campaign UK’s director, Mark Farmaner, said in a statement.

Wednesday’s statement from Rafael Frankel, Asia-Pacific director of policy for Meta, said the company was taking 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.”

The military controls major portions of Myanmar’s economy, largely through two big holding companies. Meta stated that it uses a 2019 report by U.N. investigators to determine relevant companies, because corporate connections aren’t always obvious.

Facebook removed 20 people and organisations linked to the military in response to Rohingya abuses. Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing is the current leader of the army-installed state government. Facebook deleted six accounts owned by the military from 2018 to 2010. The army did not recognize the support.

Facebook removed state media pages that were violating Facebook’s rules regarding promoting violence or harm to other people this year.


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