Myanmar’s hardline monks will dodge bans on Facebook and keep using it to “tell the truth”, they said after the social media giant barred several Buddhist nationalists for hate messages targeting Rohingya Muslims.
United Nations officials investigating a possible genocide in Myanmar have said Facebook has been a source of propaganda against the minority in a country where it has become a near-ubiquitous communications tool as the economy opens up.
Myanmar’s nationalist monks and activists, who have emerged as a political force in recent years, have been sharing violent and angry rhetoric on Facebook targeting the minority, seen by many in the Buddhist-majority country as illegal immigrants. “It is a violation of freedom of expression,” Thuseitta, a member of the Patriotic Myanmar Monks’ Union told Reuters hours after Facebook identified him as a “hate figure”.
“We will keep using Facebook with different names and accounts to tell the truth to people.”
Nearly 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh, the United Nations and aid agencies have said, following an army crackdown after Rohingya insurgent attacks last August. Washington has called the army response “ethnic cleansing” — a charge Myanmar denies, saying its security forces have been waging a legitimate counter-insurgency operation against “Bengali terrorists”.
Pinnyawenta, another monk from the union whose account was deactivated in May after repeatedly being asked by Facebook to remove some posts, said he had registered again under another name and would “continue to write about the truth” on the site. In an email message, Facebook told Reuters it was “investing more in the teams who are working on Myanmar” as it seeks to “understand and respond to Myanmar’s unique technical challenges”.
“There’s always more we can do to get ahead of these repeat offenders, and we are committed to improving our detection tools to remove them from Facebook as quickly as possible,” the company said.