Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Latest : Facebook bans four Myanmar ethnic rebel groups

Feb 05. 2019
File photo : AFP
File photo : AFP
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By AFP

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Yangon - Facebook has blacklisted four more of Myanmar's ethnic rebel groups, the platform announced Tuesday as it struggles to control rampant hate speech, misinformation and incitement on its platform.

    For years the social media giant has been lambasted for its slow and ineffectual response to incendiary posts, particularly against the country's Rohingya Muslims.

    The company has embarked on a huge PR campaign over the last year to prove it is taking action in a country with an estimated 20 million Facebook accounts.

    The latest rebel organisations to have been banned are the Arakan Army (AA), Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and Taaung National Liberation Army (TNLA).

    "These armed groups are now banned from Facebook and all related praise, support and representation will be removed as soon as we become aware of it," Facebook's news page said.

    "There is clear evidence that these organisations have been responsible for attacks against civilians and have engaged in violence in Myanmar, and we want to prevent them from using our services to further inflame tensions on the ground."

    Hardline nationalist monks and even top military generals -- who UN investigators say should face prosecution for genocide for their crackdown against the Rohingya -- were kicked off the site last year.

    Hundreds of pages and accounts with hidden links to the armed forces were also removed in December.

    Likewise, the Rohingya militant group, whose August 2017 attacks were used by the military as a justification for its brutal campaign, is already blacklisted.

    The newest rebel groups to be kicked off the site are among some two dozen ethnic armed organisations fighting decades-old conflicts over autonomy, identity, territory and natural resources.

    Since 2016, the four have clubbed together in an alliance, refusing to enter bilateral peace talks with the government.

    In December, the military announced a temporary ceasefire in the troubled northeast of the country but has continued to pound AA rebels in Myanmar's beleaguered Rakhine state in violence that has seen several thousand displaced.

    Facebook told AFP that the government had flagged up content posted by the rebel groups several times but said the decision to blacklist them had been internal.

    The platform has tried to repair its battered reputation, improving the speed with which hate speech is taken down and boosting the number of Myanmar-language reviewers.

    It confirmed it now employs more than 100 staff who speak Myanmar -- including some who can also review content in Shan and Chin languages.

    Critics say, however, that the number is still insufficient to monitor the volume of accounts in the country, many in a patchwork of regional languages.

    After decades of isolating military rule, most people in Myanmar have only came online in the last few years as the country opened up and smartphone usage soared.

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