Provocative Facebook posts may be banned ahead of Myanmar elections

YANGON: The Myanmar government will join hands with Facebook to remove any posts that may incite violence during the upcoming election campaign period. The country is set to go to the polls on Nov 8.

Due to an increase in Facebook and mobile phone users across the country, authorities said they are concerned some netizens may use the medium to spread inaccurate information in the run-up to the elections as soon as campaigning starts next month.

“We had the communal violence in 2012 and 2013. After that, we had our first co-operation with Facebook. That is why we try to apply the same co-operation in the election period, not to control the freedom of information but try to prevent the hate speech and other inciting of violence or communal violence during the election campaign,” explained Information Minister Ye Htut.

But such co-operation has drawn concerns from civic groups.

“Our very first concern is how the government and Facebook will work together, who will define and who will be in charge of what to take down, what is allowed and what is not allowed on Facebook,” said Htaike Htaike Aung, Programme Manager of Myanmar ICT for Development Organisation.

Myanmar’s mobile phone penetration rate between March 2014 and the same period this year nearly doubled to 55 per cent, especially with the entry of two foreign players, Telenor and Ooredoo, according to the government and private telecom providers.

With the number of users on the rise, the government said it is mindful that information could spread faster, increasing rumour-mongering during the campaigning period.

As a result, Myanmar’s civil society is implementing election-monitoring programmes to counter any false information that may spread during the campaign.

“For example, when there is a rumour on Facebook, we will take that and we will research what is the actual information,” said Htaike Htaike Aung, adding the group will then pass the correct information to the public.

However, with an estimated five million Facebook users in present-day Myanmar, it is almost impossible to track the flow of content thoroughly.

Source: Channel News Asia

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