Facebook has designated Myanmar a “temporary high-risk location” after a coup earlier this week, saying it will remove “any calls to bring armaments” and protect posts criticizing the country’s military.
According to BuzzFeed, Facebook’s Asia-Pacific policy director, Rafael Frankel, outlined its coup response in a message to employees. Frankel pledged to employ “a number of product interventions that were used in the past in Myanmar and during the US elections, to ensure the platform isn’t being used to spread misinformation, incite violence, or coordinate harm.”
Facebook declined to comment on the leaked post to The Verge, but it confirmed that a number of the measures it mentions are being put in place. “We are closely monitoring political events in Myanmar as they unfold and are taking additional steps to stop misinformation and content that could incite further tensions at this time,” a spokesperson tells The Verge. “This includes removing misinformation that delegitimizes the outcome of November’s election,” alongside hate speech and other misinformation.
Facebook says it’s taking temporary measures to reduce the spread of content that praises or supports post-election violence, automatically demoting potentially rule-breaking content while moderators make a decision on its removal.
BuzzFeed reports that Frankel said Facebook is securing the accounts of activists and journalists, as well as protecting “critical information about what’s happening on the ground.” While the military reportedly locked down overall internet access at the beginning of the coup, the disruption was apparently temporary.
The post reportedly says Facebook is also attempting to track pages taken over by the military. The Wall Street Journal wrote yesterday that Facebook had banned a page for a military television network, and Frankel said it was working to “stop misinformation and content that could incite further tensions.”
In 2018, Facebook purged many military accounts that helped incite genocidal violence against the country’s Rohingya Muslim minority after the United Nations issued a report condemning Facebook’s “slow and ineffective” response. However, Facebook’s semi-independent oversight board recently overturned one ban of an anti-Muslim post in Myanmar, saying that it did not rise to the level of hate speech.
Facebook’s “temporary high-risk location” designation isn’t new. The label was applied to Washington, DC on January 6th after supporters of former President Donald Trump attempted to overturn the results of the US election. The decision was followed by Facebook banning Trump from Facebook and Instagram — another decision that will soon be scrutinized by the oversight board.