Who will handle the hell hounds on Facebook?

Writer: 
Nay Htun Naing
Some Facebook pages that have been spreading Dictatorial Propaganda.

(1)

Officials from the social network Facebook held a workshop with government officials last month.

Ye Htut, Information Minister and spokesperson of the President, told media in early this month that anyone who incites aggression on social media would be prosecuted and that it was a precaution against conflicts during election period.

Zaw Htay also known as Hmuu Zaw, director of the presidential office, shared Facebook safety rules through his account on the social media on September 11.

The very next day, the Ministry of Information sent a letter to the Myanmar Motion Picture Organisation summoning filmmaker Mike Tee over a photoshopped image spread on Facebook that insults President Thein Sein by the account named “Mike Tee”.

Ye Htut replied to the 7Day Daily Newspaper that the filmmaker was summoned to make clear whether or not the Facebook account is his.

Mike Tee disclaimed any knowledge of the hoaxed imagery saying someone have made fake accounts under his name for malicious purposes.

Not only Mike Tee but also many news media outlets have fallen victims to the hands of the hoaxers on Facebook recently, making them explain the public about the fake accounts under their brands.

But the government is still silent on the matter.

Further the accounts of hundreds of Facebook users that have opposed dictatorship and promoted democracy have been attacked over last few months – forcing them to change their profile names after being reported and in some cases, their accounts were breached and the names were changed without their knowledge.

The accounts of the supporters of dictatorship have dawned, on the other hand, and some even employed the identities of the democracy activists for their propaganda campaigns.

They roam freely without anyone to handle them, which is why their voices only get louder.

(2)

Facebook got trendy locally just after 2010. According to figures from pre-2010 era, the number of people online was around 100,000 and that of mobile phone users was less than one million.

The sum of Internet users became nearly 500,000 and over 1,000 Internet cafes appeared in 2011. Facebook was not that popuar back then compared to blogging since the number of Myanmar-language blogs already topped 10,000.

It is clear that the pro-dictator blogs have existed since then because they were seen countering pro-democracy bloggers since after the 2007 Saffron Revolution.

The pro-dictator blogs such as Kye Sataman, Ami Myae, etc. had been prominent back in 2010. They were believed to use the Russian IP address but were not unmasked, and their activities diminished gradually.

Their place was shortly taken by newcomers: Dr. Seik Phwar, Padauk Myae, Myanmar Express, and Opposite Eyes. They continued spreading propagandas online but in a new way: The former ones seemed to be identical under one organisation or one individual but the new generation of lobbyists worked more systematically by agenda.

They used to speak ill of others and their targets were mostly pro-democracy politicians, media and any of the then government’s adversaries.

More facebook pages that have been and still are spreading propaganda.

(3)

The promoters of dictatorship also appeared on Facebook and have established Myanmar-language propaganda mechanisms on it.

Their works materialised in 2012 as the accounts with incorrect profile pictures and user information were around 500,000.

The Eleven Media Group (EMG) has banned 60,000-100,000 pro-dictator Facebook accounts from its official page last year.

What they all have in common is following the tone of Dr. Seik Phwar. The accounts named Ludu Maung Karlu incited religious violence in 2012 and Pyithu Arnar (People’s Power) issued misinformation and are all branches of Dr. Seik Phwar.

They have misled people through Facebook using vulgar words and personal attacks alongside with Myanmar Express, Dr.  Seik Phwar and Opposite Eyes that have long existed since the blogging era.

But no one is there to take action against them or remove them from Facebook.

They continue assailing media and politicians, spreading religious hate speeches and throwing sucker punches in political issues under the religious reasons.

Facebook is responsible for all of them.

(4)

Facebook is responsible based on three reasons.

First of all, Facebook already has Myanmar staffs and has not removed the accounts yet that infringe its community standards like Myanmar Express.

Secondly, many have used its Sponsorship to promote their pages and accounts. Sponsorship is a programme in which the client pays Facebook in return for a better post reach.

The 7Day Media Group spends the most for Sponsorship among local media departments, followed by EMG.

When EMG started using Facebook sponsor programme, it paid US$ 10 a day to boost its posts. Now, EMG is paying US$ 10 every day and the monthly amount is US$ 3,000.

The BBC (Myanmar Section) is the third biggest spender of sponsorship, and then follows the Irrawaddy.

Asia-Pacific's mobile penetration rate (Source: We Are Social).

Average graph on amount of Myanmar's internet users against Facebook users.

Likewise, business firms, entrepreneurs and individual people spend money to subscribe to the programme.

Some government ministers also use it to promote their posts online.

Among those who have Facebook sponsor pages in the political arena, Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and Lower House speaker Thura Shwe Mann are noticeable.

Besides, sponsor pages of more political parties have been found these days in the run-up to the November election.

Every day, Facebook earns millions of dollars from Myanmar for using such a sponsor programme.

Statistics on growth of internet users in Asia-Pacific countries and internet use (Source: We Are Social).

Now, propagandists working for their dictators will also be using the programme for sure. So a question could be raised whether this is the reason why they have not been removed.

The third point is that Facebook has close ties with local authorities. Normally, it is not strange that Facebook and the government have close cooperation. One Facebook rule has it that data demanded by governments concerned will be revealed if it is in conformity with the required terms and conditions.

In this context, the government could remove Facebook accounts of those propagandists with the help of Facebook. But they have taken no action so far.

EMG opened a case against pro-dictator propagandist Myanmar Express under Section 34 (a) of the Electronic Transaction Law at Tamwe Township Police Station on January 28, 2013. The police accepted the case but no further action was taken. It is proof that the government takes no action although such cases can be opened under the law concerned. This is why cybercrimes and authoritarianism propagandas are raising their heads.

Myanmar is an eye-catching market for Facebook. There will be great loses if Myanmar bans Facebook. Reports have spread among Internet users that Facebook is removing posts and images which are highly critical of the government.

Meanwhile, fabricated news and hate speeches (from pro-government bloggers) go viral online. It is questionable why Facebook has not removed the accounts of Myanmar Express, People's Power and Dr. Seik Phwar and their accomplices whose real profiles are hidden. Such is the attitude of Facebook itself or Myanmar employees at Facebook?

(5)

Myanmar is on the brink of danger as the authorities allow those Facebook accounts to spread propagandas as they like without taking any action.

The mobile phone usage in Myanmar is tremendously increasing and the number of mobile users is going to reach 30 million.

According to a report published by Myanmar Business Update (NCRA) on August 17, the country has nearly 27 million mobile users. There are about 14 million MPT SIM card users, over 9 million Telenor SIM card users and over 4 million Ooreedoo SIM card users.

Moreover, indexes of the "We Are Social" group show that Myanmar is one of the Asia Pacific countries to have the highest number of Internet users. This year, Myanmar has the second highest rate of Internet users after Cambodia.

Myanmar has also become the country in Asia Pacific which has the highest rate of Facebook users via mobile phones.

Statistics on growth of mobile social users in Asia-Pacific countries and social media use (Source: We Are Social).

According to LIRNEasia Index 2015, the number of Facebook users in Myanmar is two times larger than that of the Internet service users. This tends to say that the number of people who use Facebook without much knowledge of Internet is more than that of those already familiar with Internet.

Actually, the increased usage of Internet in Myanmar depends on the number of Facebook users.

Allowing those hell hounds on Facebook and taking no action against will have an impact on the Myanmar society.

In the previous religious conflicts, instigations of pro-dictator propagandists on Facebook had led to backlashes among the public members.

(6)

No one has tried to take action against the hell hounds on Facebook linked to Myanmar Express, People's Power and Dr. Seik Phwar.

Facebook has not removed those inflammatory accounts. The government has not moved either to ask Facebook to remove them. The hell hounds are still at large on Facebook.

The Facebook safety rules coming from the workshop between government and Facebook officials are agreeable without objection. Everyone must follow the rules and action must be taken against anyone who breaches the rules.

Whether Facebook acts in accordance with the rules it has adopted can be measured whether it will remove the accounts of Myanmar Express, People's Power and Dr. Seik Phwar.

Just remove the Facebook accounts of those hell hounds like Myanmar Express. And then publicise their IPs and data.

Otherwise, we will have to seek advice of international law firms to sue Facebook at a court in California, the United States, and ask for compensation.