The pages reached 1.35 million people in Myanmar, and spread misinformation, religious hatred, and false news stories.
16 Oct, 2018FORTUNE.COM
Facebook responded to a New York Times investigation on Oct. 15 into ethnic violence incited by members of the Myanmar military by banning 13 additional pages with a combined 1.35 million followers. The pages represented themselves as offering beauty, entertainment, and general information, but the Times report said the military controlled the pages, rather than fans of pop stars and national heroes, as the pages alleged.
Facebook announced the move in an update to a blog post about its previous actions to combat the spread of false information via its service in Myanmar that have led to killings and widespread violence against ethnic minorities. Accounts and pages previously banned had about 12 million followers, and included the account for the general in charge of the country’s armed forces.
Facebook received heavy criticism for its slow response to its platform being used for violence, and said as much in August in the initial version of its Myanmar blog post, when it admitted “we have been too slow to prevent misinformation and hate.”
The Times reported that the Myanmar military have engaged in a systemic campaign for five years on Facebook to target the Rohingya, a stateless minority population in the country comprising mostly Muslims. As many as 700 military personnel were involved, the Times said. Facebook confirmed many details for the newspaper. The company did not immediately respond to a request from Fortune for comment.
The spread of fake information ranging from specific false accounts about rapes and murders by Muslims to blanket condemnations of Islam are seen as leading directly to a large-scale campaign of ethnic cleansing. Over 700,000 Rohingya have left Myanmar since August 2017, joining more than 300,000 who had already departed the country, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency. A report from the agency in August estimates at least 10,000 Rohingya people had been killed in violence, but other observers believe the number could be far higher.