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Facebook shares rise as it bans Myanmar Army chief, other accounts

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Facebook shares closed higher in the US Monday, after the social media platform announced it had banned the Myanmar army chief and other pages and accounts, to help halt the spread of hate speech in the country.

The move comes after four years of warnings that Facebook was being used to further inflame already high religious tensions regarding the Rohingya. The tech giant admits it has been too slow to act.

Facebook shares ended 1.61% higher at $177.46 in the US Friday. The stock is also trading in the green in after-hours activity.

Facebook’s unprecedented move

In the first move of its kind by the social media platform, Facebook announced Monday that it had banned numerous users. It has also shutdown 18 Facebook accounts, 52 Facebook pages and one Instagram account with links to Myanmar military leaders.

In a news update, Facebook began by stating that the “ethnic violence in Myanmar has been truly horrific.”

And, while also admitting that the California-based tech firm had been “too slow to act” it said it has now taken steps to limit the spread of religious hate speech in Myanmar.

“We are banning 20 individuals and organizations from Facebook in Myanmar — including Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, commander-in-chief of the armed forces, and the military’s Myawady television network,” the Facebook post said.

Facebook’s role in Myanmar

The UN report mentioned by Facebook was also published Monday. It condemned the Myanmar military for carrying out widespread human rights abuses and said six Myanmar army chiefs should be prosecuted for coordinating the worst possible crimes under law.

The UN also stated that for those living in Myanmar, Facebook is broadly considered to be the internet. “Facebook has been a useful instrument for those seeking to spread hate, in a context where for most users Facebook is the Internet,” the UN report said.

Facebook also admits the dependence of Myanmar citizens on Facebook as a source of news.

“We continue to work to prevent the misuse of Facebook in Myanmar…. This is a huge responsibility given so many people there rely on Facebook for information — more so than in almost any other country,” it said.

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