Social Media Companies Urged to Stand Up to Myanmar Junta

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Myanmar: Social media companies urged to stand up to junta
Myanmar military anti-coup rally ( Photo : Twitter / @ HsuChiKo1 )

The UN issued a statement on Monday urging social media companies to do more to protect women and human rights activists in Myanmar.

In an appeal to internet chat platforms to monitor content more carefully and allocate sufficient resources to do so, the rights experts warned that Telegram in particular had become “a hotbed of pro-military activity”.

‘Violent and misogynistic’

Tens of thousands of followers had been drawn to the junta’s “violent and misogynistic content”, warned the rights experts, who noted that women were often accused of having sex with Muslim men or supporting the Muslim population.

This is a “common ultranationalist, discriminatory and Islamophobic narrative in Myanmar”, said the experts, who added that women are also targeted by so-called “doxxing” – the act of publishing private information, including names and addresses, about individuals without their consent.

The experts, who include Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, Tom Andrews, welcomed Telegram’s decision to block at least 13 pro-military social media accounts after being made aware of what was happening, although at least one of the worst offending channels is back online.

“Unless Telegram fundamentally changes its approach to content moderation in Myanmar, it is likely that pro-military actors will simply open new accounts and continue their campaign of harassment,” they said.

Daily threats

“Every day, women are being threatened online with sexualized violence because they are standing up for human rights, opposing the military’s attempted rule, and fighting for a return to a democratic path,” the experts said in a statement.

‘Doxxing’ and other forms of online harassment add to the multiple threats that women activists, human rights defenders, and independent associations are already facing in Myanmar,” they said.

The independent experts urged Telegram and other social media companies to meet their responsibilities to identify, prevent, and mitigate any human rights abuses taking place on their platforms.

Due diligence

“Tech companies must ensure that their services do not contribute to human rights abuses, including gender-based violence and discrimination, arbitrary arrest, the right to privacy, and the suppression of freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, both online and offline, and association,” they said.

They urged social media platforms to allocate the necessary resources to protect the human rights of their users, referring to the targeting of women and the need to monitor content in Burmese – and ethnic languages in Myanmar – in close coordination with local organizations and actors.

Special Rapporteurs and other UN Human Rights Council-appointed rights experts, work on a voluntary and unpaid basis, are not UN staff, and work independently from any government or organization.