Who will fight internet lies and hate speech in Myanmar?

The Rohingya crisis in Myanmar shows how disinformation and hate speech, spread primarily on Facebook, can exacerbate a conflict with devastating consequences.

The Rohingya crisis in Myanmar is a living example of how disinformation and hate speech, spread primarily on Facebook, can exacerbate a conflict with devastating consequences. With the Myanmar public facing general elections in 2020, how and who will ensure that its citizens have access to quality news that will help them make informed decisions?

Facebook’s dominance in Myanmar with more than 20 million users in a population of 53 million has raised some serious concerns around the quality of information people in Myanmar have access to, as well as their ability to distinguish between reliable information and disinformation.

In the face of Facebook’s reluctance to take any lasting meaningful action to stop the destructive spread of disinformation on its channels, there are new and growing initiatives in Myanmar to strengthen media literacy levels and access to reliable, fact-checked journalism. But is it too little too late?

Join us for a discussion on Thursday, 5 September from 9:00 – 10:15 at IMS, Nørregade 18 about what can be done when Facebook effectively has taken over the national newsfeed (Sign up at hwa@mediasupport.org).


  • Htaike  Htaike Aung, cofounder of Myanmar ICT for Development Organisation (MIDO) and a digital rights activist. Working to address disinformation in Myanmar since 2014.
  •  Soe Lin Htoot, Myanmar Fifth Estate (NGO), tech specialist working to providing media with online fact-checking solutions.
  • Lars Bestle, Head of IMS media programmes in Asia

Facebook’s failures

Facebook has faced significant pressure to act after it failed to take action against hate speech and incitement amid a peak in violence against the Rohingya minority that began in 2017 which led to an exodus into neighbouring Bangladesh of almost 730,000 Rohingyas. Earlier this year, the company closed hundreds of accounts as a consequence of this criticism and in late August took further steps to close 216 social media pages, groups and accounts in Myanmar, some tied to the army to stop efforts to “manipulate or corrupt public debate”.

Today, 34 per cent of the population have access to the internet and are active social media users. For many, Facebook is the internet. This means that much of the information Myanmar citizens receive comes through Facebook with little or no pratical knowledge of what is reliable information and what is disinformation.

MIDO and media organisations like International Media Support are now working to strengthen media literacy amongst the young population in Myanmar while also providing support to independent media and new startups that provide an alternative reliable source of information to Facebook. Read more about our work here.