YANGON (Reuters) – Facebook said it was removing several Myanmar military officials to prevent the spread of “hate and misinformation” after reviewing the content.
Facebook’s action means an essential blackout of the military’s main channel of public communication, with pages followed by millions of people in a country where the social media giant is virtually synonymous with the internet.
The move places further pressure on the generals, coming hours after United Nations investigators said the army carried out mass killings and gang rapes of Muslim Rohingya with “genocidal intent”. Their report said the commander-in-chief of Myanmar’s armed forces and five generals should be prosecuted for orchestrating the gravest crimes under law.
“Specifically, we are banning 20 Burmese individuals and organizations from Facebook — including Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, commander-in-chief of the armed forces, and the military’s Myawady television network,” Facebook said in a blog post.
“We’re removing a total of 18 Facebook accounts, one Instagram account and 52 Facebook Pages, followed by almost 12 million people,” the Menlo Park, California-based company added. bit.ly/2PHwRZy
It is the first time Facebook has imposed such a ban on a country’s military or political leaders, the company later said it response to a query from Reuters.
Facebook spokeswoman Clare Wareing said by email that the social media site took this step, “since international experts, including a UN-commissioned report, have found evidence that many of these officials committed serious human rights abuses in the country.”
Colonel Zaw Min Tun, an official in the military’s public information unit, told Reuters he was not aware the pages had been removed. He declined to comment further. Government spokesman Zaw Htay was not immediately available for comment.
A preview of Min Aung Hlaing’s Facebook page was still accessible immediately after the announcement and showed it had been “liked” by 1.3 million people. When Reuters attempted to return to it later it had been removed.
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