In Burma, Facebook becomes a hotbed of extremism

Posted: 16/04/2013 in Affairs, Myanmar
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Since it was unblocked in 2011, Facebook in Burma has become a platform for sectarian hate speech and propaganda

Since June 2012, when violence broke out between Rohingya and Buddhists in RakhineState, Facebook has become a platform where propagandists mislead social network users in Burma on what seems like a daily basis. There is increasing concern about the number of Burmese Internet users misusing their newfound access to social media. In reality, social networking is not that new to Burmese Internet users, but using it for online propaganda is.

Despite low penetration and strict control of the Internet, active debate on all major religions on Burmese forums did exist for a number of years prior to 2012, with little evidence of animosities spilling into the offline world. Although the country was closed in many ways, people seemed to be more open-minded. Burmese Internet users were allowed access to Facebook in September 2011. However, it is not the only root cause of hate speech and online propaganda since Burmese Facebook users seemed calm until the Rohingya issue emerged in mid-2012.

This falsified image appeared on a Burmese Facebook page alleging killings by Burmese monks. It actually shows Tibetan monks helping out after the 2010 earthquake in China. Pic: Facebook.Since then, fabricated news and falsified images have come from several Facebook accounts with unknown identities. Buddhists portray Muslims as extremists and terrorists while Muslims say Buddhists as racists. Hoaxes are everywhere. Monks from Tibet helping out after a disaster became Buddhist monks killing Rohingya. Infants from orphanages were falsely portrayed as Burmese children displaced by Rohingya rioters.

The situation intensified again recently after the Meikhtila riots. Extremist Facebook pages and accounts with thousands of followers have stoked the tensions with images and stories that cannot be verified. Images from alleged crime scenes – the dead body of a Rakhine girl reportedly raped and killed by three Muslims in June, the burnt body of a Buddhist monk allegedly killed by Muslims in Meikhtila and a video of Buddhist monk threatening to kill Muslims – are all questionable. The “unknown” sources recorded those and uploaded to Facebook, where they spread like wildfire. More interesting is that these are not images and videos likely to be captured by average members of the public, and security forces were included in some videos.

Read more on AsianCorrespondent.
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Comments
  1. Francisco Alegría says:

    All My Friends in Burma are Free to communicate with me since i left Burma. This is An Amazing sign of change and happiness That most of the cotizeis of the World cannot realize. My Support is with the people of Burma. A Special Thanks to Facebook for vencimento such a magic touch in our lifes.

    • mydaydream says:

      I know right! I love Facebook depsite much criticism towards that social network. I just think it could be a little more beautiful with less propagandists. And thanks much for supporting our people.

  2. Htaike says:

    Clicktivism/slacktivism sure is hot in our community, in both good and bad ways. More in bad ways I suppose, as I am quite annoyed of people doing something (e.g share, like or click) just to “feel good” rather then really caring about that issue.

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