In 2010, Myanmar transitioned from a military dictatorship to a quasi-civilian government, propelled by political and economic reforms. The environment which resulted from the actions of Myanmar authorities "emboldened those who preach hatred and silenced those who stand for tolerance and human rights [and created] an environment where extremists’ discourse can thrive, human rights violations are legitimized, and incitement to discrimination and violence facilitated" as found by the Independent International Fact Finding Mission on Myanmar.
Online Hate Speech & Violence
18 local Myanmar civil society organizations (CSOs) compiled their research and analytical insights, determining there to be a significant presence of hate speech in Myanmar both online and offline. According to the cumulative report, “Hate speech in Myanmar is not simply the product of individual bigotry and intolerance … Rather, [it] has been systematically promoted and disseminated by powerful interests that benefit from the constructed narratives and the resulting division and conflict in society."
In August 2018, online hate speech originating from Myanmar included posts such as “We must fight them the way Hitler did the Jews, damn kalars!” and "These non-human kalar dogs, the Bengalis, are killing and destroying our land, our water and our ethnic people, we need to destroy their race” and "“Pour fuel and set fire so that they can meet Allah faster", in reference to a photo of Rohingya refugees on a ship.
According to OpenNetInitiative, internet censorship in Myanmar was categorized in December 2010 as politically prevalent, substantial in areas of social and security activity/tools online. Reporters Without Borders labeled the nation as an "Internet Enemy" in 2012. Freedom House's Freedom on the Net report classified Myanmar as "Not Free" in 2011 and "Partly Free" in 2014.
2016 Presidential Election
Facebook Oversight Board
The Facebook Oversight Board's official purpose "is to promote free expression by making principled, independent decisions regarding content on Facebook and Instagram and by issuing recommendations on the relevant Facebook company content policy." It officially began work in October 2022 and is comprised of 40 members when fully staffed. The concept for the board was proposed in November 2018 and a draft charter was released in January 2019. The idea then went through a global consultation process beginning in June 2019. The process included discussion with the public and experts from 88 countries, 22 roundtables, 6 in-depth workshops, 250 one-on-one discussions, and 1,200 public submissions. The final charter was published in September 2019, and the Oversight Trust Board was formed in October 2019.
The first five case decisions of the board, published January 2021, overturned 4 Facebooks decisions and upheld one. Facebook case 2020-002-FB-UA, which removed a post which commented on Facebook's lack of reaction to the treatment of Uyghur Muslims in China when compared to the reaction regarding cartoons in France, was overturned. Facebook case 2020-003-FB-UA , which removed a post that used the Russian word “тазики” (“taziks”) to describe Azerbaijanis- who the user claimed have no history compared to Armenians, was upheld. Facebook case 2020-004-IG-UA, which removed a post that included photos of breast cancer symptoms which, in some cases, showed uncovered female nipples, was overturned. Facebook case 2020-005-FB-UA, which removed a post that included an alleged quote from Joseph Goebbels, the Reich Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany, was overturned. Facebook case 2020-006-FB-FBR, which removed a post that criticized the lack of a health strategy in France and included claims that a cure for COVID-19 exists, was overturned.
“Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar.” OHCHR, http://www.ohchr.org/en/hrbodies/hrc/myanmarffm/pages/index.aspx
“Online Hate Speech in Myanmar: an Evolving Threat.” Minority Rights Group International, 20 Dec. 2020, http://www.minorityrights.org/2020/12/20/hate-speech-myanmar/
"Combatting hate speech in Myanmar." Harvard Law Today, 16 Oct. 2020, https://today.law.harvard.edu/combatting-hate-speech-in-myanmar/
"Announcing the Oversight Board’s first case decisions" Oversight Board, Jan. 2021, https://oversightboard.com
"Using flower speech and new Facebook tools, Myanmar fights online hate speech" Washington Post, 24 Dec. 2014, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/religion/using-flower-speech-and-new-facebook-tools-myanmar-fights-online-hate-speech/2014/12/24/3bff458c-8ba9-11e4-ace9-47de1af4c3eb_story.html
"Internet Filtering in Burma in 2005: A Country Study" OpenNet Initiative https://opennet.net/studies/burma
"Myanmar Country Report" https://freedomhouse.org/country/myanmar
"Why Facebook is losing the war on hate speech in Myanmar" Reuters Investigates 15 Aug. 2018, https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/myanmar-facebook-hate/