Facebook removed the accounts of Myanmar authorities, including its commander-in-chief, on Monday for using the social media platform for human rights abuses.
About 30 million of Myanmar’s 50 million people use Facebook. The company said it removed 18 accounts, including those of military chief Gen. Min Aung Hlaing and the military-owned Myawady television network.
A United Nations report in March said that hate speech on Facebook has played a “determining role” in Myanmar’s ethnic tension. An estimated 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled the country, mostly to neighboring Bangladesh, following a yearlong government crackdown.
Facebook banned 20 individuals and organizations from its service. Nearly 12 million people follow those accounts.
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“International experts, most recently in a report by the U.N. Human Rights Council-authorized Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, have found evidence that many of these individuals and organizations committed or enabled serious human rights abuses in the country. And we want to prevent them from using our service to further inflame ethnic and religious tensions,” a Facebook statement said on Monday. “This has led us to remove six pages and six accounts from Facebook – and one account from Instagram – which are connected to these individuals and organizations. We have not found a presence on Facebook or Instagram for all 20 individuals and organizations we are banning.”
It added that 12 accounts of seemingly independent news and opinion pages were also banned for promoting the interests of the Myanmar military.
The announcement comes on the same day that the U.N. Human Rights Council recommended the prosecution of Gen. Hlaing and five other senior officers for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The council noted that up to 10,000 deaths through mass killings and arson attacks were committed against the Rohingya population by the Myanmar military since August 2017.