Following a military coup in February, YouTube has taken down five channels created by Myanmar’s military. YouTube removed the videos on Friday, March 5th, stating that they did not meet the community guidelines. Among the removed channels were the state network, MRTV (Myanmar Radio and Television), and the military-owned MWD Variety, Myawaddy and MWD Myanmar. A spokeswoman from YouTube stated, “We have terminated a number of channels and removed several videos from YouTube in accordance with our community guidelines and applicable laws.”
Reuters news agency conducted a review, discovering that dozens of channels had pretended to be news outlets or political programmes, and were spreading misinformation about the election.
Over a week before YouTube’s decision, Facebook banned all pages run by the Myanmar military. In December, Google blocked 34 YouTube channels with links to Myanmar. This was shortly after Myanmar’s general election in 2020. Facebook has also blocked the military’s access to advertisements. In response to these restrictions, the Myanmar military banned Facebook as well as policing the use of social networking by enforcing internet curfews across the country since the beginning of the coup.
Facebook’s active response to the military’s use of the platform could be linked to their failures in 2018 regarding the genocidal violence in Myanmar. After an independent assessment in 2018, Facebook stated that it could have done more to stop its network “being used to foment division and incite offline violence.” In response to their failures, Facebook began to make the necessary change to prevent future misuse of the network.
The actions of Facebook in 2018 have been widely criticized, resulting in the formation of a team to specifically work on Myanmar related issues on the network. Since its inception, the team claims to have proactively identified posts promoting hate speech before they were reported by Facebook users. Facebook has amended its credible violence policy to include posts promoting misinformation which could result in violence or physical harm. Facebook’s ban on all Myanmar military pages is in line with its 2018 promise to act proactively to stop the spread of misinformation and the encouragement of hate speech and physical violence.
Hundreds and thousands of people are protesting the military coup in Myanmar. The military and security forces have responded violently, firing live rounds at unarmed citizens. The number of deaths have now reached 55. However, the military is yet to responded to this. UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet reported that over 1700 people have been arrested and detained since the beginning of the coup. These numbers include members of parliament, protesters and approximately 29 journalists; however, Michelle Bachelet stated that these numbers could be higher as the difficulties in monitoring the protests mean the figures might not represent the whole picture.