Facebook is censoring messaging from the Myanmar military for spreading misinformation following a coup

  • On February 1, the Myanmar military staged a coup.
  • In response to the military coup in Myanmar, Facebook is censoring accounts from the coup’s leaders.
  • Facebook said the accounts “continued to spread misinformation,” which forced moderators to act.
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On February 1, on the brink of a newly elected government being sworn in, the Myanmar military announced a coup.

The basis of the coup, it said, were claims of widespread election fraud in the prior year’s election. Despite those claims being repeatedly debunked, and the election’s results affirmed, the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party have seized power of the government after losing the country’s November election by a landslide.

Facebook said it’s treating the situation “as an emergency” and is limiting communications from Myanmar’s military and the military’s spokesperson, it said this week.

The company said it will “significantly reduce the distribution of all content on Facebook Pages and profiles run by the Myanmar Military (“Tatmadaw”) that have continued to spread misinformation.” That includes the military’s spokesperson and its “information team,” and could be applied more broadly, “to any additional pages that the military controls that repeatedly violate our misinformation policies,” Facebook said.

Those pages and profiles will also be excluded from recommendations.

Facebook has been criticized for being too lax in its moderation efforts with politicians, particularly former president Donald Trump. It wasn’t until the attempted insurrection on January 6, and the subsequent messaging from Trump, that Facebook moved to suspend his account. 

Notably, Facebook has prior experience with sensitive user moderation in Myanmar — the service played a role in the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya Muslim population in the country, Mark Zuckerberg said in 2018.

“One Saturday morning, I got a phone call and we detected that people were trying to spread sensational messages through — it was Facebook Messenger in this case — to each side of the conflict, basically telling the Muslims, ‘Hey, there’s about to be an uprising of the Buddhists, so make sure that you are armed and go to this place.’ And then the same thing on the other side,” Zuckerberg told Vox’s Ezra Klein.

Facebook said it’s determined to not let that happen again. “We remain vigilant to emerging trends,” the company said, “and will not hesitate to take additional measures as appropriate.”

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