Meta to ban all Myanmar-army controlled businesses from platforms

FILE PHOTO: A smartphone with Meta logo and a 3D printed Facebook logo is placed on a laptop keyboard in this illustration taken October 28, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

(Reuters) - Meta Platforms Inc, formerly known as Facebook, said on Wednesday it would ban all Myanmar-military controlled businesses from having a presence on its platforms in an expansion of its earlier curbs on the country's security forces.

The U.S tech giant had already announced in February it would stop all entities linked to the military, known as the Tatmadaw, from advertising on its platforms.

"This action is based on extensive documentation by the international community and civil society of these businesses' direct role in funding the Tatmadaw," said Rafael Frankel, Meta's Pacific director of public policy for emerging countries, Asia Pacific.

Myanmar's military overthrew Aung San Suu Kyi's democratically elected government in a coup in February, prompting widespread protests.

A spokesman for the military junta, which itself banned Facebook in February, did not answer calls seeking comment.

Frankel said Meta was identifying the companies based on a 2019 report from a U.N. Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, research from activist groups Justice for Myanmar and Burma Campaign UK, as well consultations with civil society.

He told Reuters it had already taken down over 100 accounts, pages, and groups linked to military-controlled businesses.

Facebook plays an outsized role in Myanmar as the dominant internet channel and remains widely used by both protesters against military rule and soldiers.

After coming under heavy international criticism for failing to contain online hate campaigns, Facebook has pushed back against the military and since the coup introduced measures to protect Myanmar users.

The platform is also facing a $150 billion lawsuit from Rohingya refugees over allegations it did not take action against hate speech targeted at the Muslim Rohingya minority that contributed to violence.

In 2018, U.N. human rights investigators said Facebook allowed the platform to be used by radical Buddhist nationalists and military members to fan a campaign of violence towards the Rohingya, 700,000 of whom fled an army crackdown in 2017.

Frankel declined to comment on the lawsuit, but said: "We're appalled by the crimes committed against the Rohingya people in Myanmar. We’ve built a dedicated team of Burmese speakers, banned the Tatmadaw, disrupted networks manipulating public debate and taken action on harmful misinformation to help keep people safe."

(Reporting by Fanny Potkin; Editing by Ed Davis)

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