Myanmar women targeted for online abuse by pro-military social media | News on social media

Women who have expressed views on social media opposing military rule in Myanmar face abuse, including calls for their arrest and threats of violence, rape and death by pro-military online users, an investigation has found.

Myanmar Witness, an organization that led the investigation, said social media platforms such as Telegram and Facebook did not do enough to tackle online abuse or did not respond quickly enough to requests to remove abusive users and content.

Politically motivated assaults against women from and in Myanmar increased at least fivefold in the wake of the military’s takeover in February 2021, according to the study, and the prevalence of violent posts targeting women was 500 times higher on Telegram compared to other international social media. media companies.

“The overwhelming majority of abusive posts were written by male profiles supporting Myanmar’s military coup and targeting women who opposed the coup,” Myanmar Witness said in the report published on Wednesday.

“Online abuse and doxxing attacks have a silencing effect and cause women to withdraw from public life,” the report said.

“Survivors report attacks on their views, person and dignity and threats of rape, death and violence with severe emotional and psychological consequences,” it said.


“Doxxing” – releasing people’s private information online without their consent, such as their home address, contact information and personal photos – was the main form of abuse found in the investigation, which involved 1.6 million Telegram posts as well as case studies and interviews with those affected by politically motivated abuse online.

The women who were doxed appeared to have been singled out for commenting favorably on groups in Myanmar opposed to military rule, such as the shadow government of National Unity, which includes former democratically elected lawmakers, and the People’s Defense Force (PDF), which has taken up arms to fight the military regime.

According to the study, “28% of all doxxing posts analyzed in the qualitative study include an explicit call for the targeted women to be punished offline.”

“Almost all of these called for the Myanmar military authorities to arrest the attacked woman and/or seize her property,” it said.

Coordinated behavior was observed by those behind the abuse campaigns “through frequent sharing and mutual reinforcement of doxxing posts” as well as alerting authorities and celebrating the arrests of the women targeted, according to the study.

Women were also subjected to sexualized disinformation campaigns, with pro-military social media users portraying their targets as “morally corrupt”, “racially impure”, “promiscuous” and “sexual prey for PDF and Ethnic Armed Organization (EAO) leaders and foreigners” .

“Dehumanizing sexualized language and images reflect tactics known to have been used by Myanmar’s military to dehumanize the Rohingya population,” the report said.


What the report revealed was likely “the tip of the iceberg”, the organization said, noting that the scale and severity of abuse targeting women online was likely much greater as the study was based only on publicly available social media posts. Posts shared in closed social media groups could not be assessed, and Facebook’s data access policy does not allow quantitative analysis on a large scale.

“Without full access to platform data, it is impossible to accurately assess the true extent or prevalence of abuse,” the study said. “This is particularly relevant for Myanmar’s most widely used social media platform, Facebook.”

The report’s authors said social media platforms need to be more accountable, should work with women’s rights organizations in Myanmar and devote more resources to monitoring the local language content they host.

Platforms should also make data available to those affected by online abuse so they can track such content and the “effectiveness of countermeasures” taken by social media companies, the authors wrote. Social media companies must also improve their response times when abuse and threats are reported, and quickly remove abusive accounts when threatening activity is flagged, the Myanmar witness said.

In an update added to the report, the organization said Telegram and Meta appeared to have removed “most abusive posts and channels identified during this investigation” as of Wednesday.

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