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Facebook On A Tight Rope Walk In Myanmar After Ban

Facebook On A Tight Rope Walk In Myanmar After Ban
Among the first things that that the military rulers of Myanmar did after the coup on Monday was to ban Facebook in the country where almost half of the population are users of the social media. According to analysts that order on Facebook by the military rulers also capped off a long standing tension between the two organizations.   
Following the opponents of the junta using Facebook to organize protests, the social media platform was banned by the military rulers last Wednesday. More than 200,000 followers and the support of Burmese celebrities was gained by a new civil disobedience page soon after the coup while hashtags related to the page were used millions of times prior to the ban.
“The Tatmadaw sees Facebook as their internet nemesis because it’s the dominant communication channel in the country, and has been hostile to the military,” Human Rights Watch Asia Deputy Director Phil Robertson told Reuters, referring to the country’s army. “Since the Burmese people are rapidly moving online to organize a massive civil disobedience campaign, shuttering access becomes a top priority.”
A call to the military rulers of Myanmar to restore access to Facebook and WhatsApp for the 54 million residents of the country was given by a spokeswoman of Facebook on Thursday.
For Facebook, it will be a tight rope walk in its efforts in balancing protection of the democratic politicians and activists while trying to get its services restored by working with the new military regime of the country. This is one example of the political dilemmas faced by the company in many other parts of the world.
For example, the social media company had to give into government demands of more censorship in neighbouring Vietnam in order to avoid being banned.
Apart from countries such as China, where the social media platform has been blocked for a long time now, Facebook has managed to mostly avoid shutdowns. However the company is currently facing government pressure in countries like India, Turkey and elsewhere.
After there was severe international criticism of Facebook for failing to contain online hate campaigns including in Myanmar, the firm had in recent years started to get more engaged with civil rights activists and democratic political parties and had resisted the military of the country.
The accounts of the army chief of Myanmar, Min Aung Hlaing who is also now Myanmar’s military ruler, and Min Aung Hlaing - now Myanmar’s military ruler were banned by Facebook in 2018 while also closing down hundreds of pages and accounts that were run by the members of the military over charges of coordinated inauthentic behaviour.
The company had also taken down a network of 70 fake accounts and pages run by military members prior to the November election in Myanmar where there were posts which were either positive and in favour of the military or criticised Suu Kyi and her party.
Facebook took down dozens of the accounts on Wednesday, shortly before being shut down whose origin is still undetermined.
“A ban on Facebook is effectively a ban on the internet,” ethnic Kachin human rights advocate Zaw Htun Lat wrote on Twitter on Thursday.

Christopher J. Mitchell

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