Arakan Army fighters in a promotional video in 2018. Photo: YouTube screen grab.

Facebook has banned four ethnic rebel armies in Myanmar and “all related praise, support and representation will be removed as soon as we become aware of it”, according to a statement issued by Facebook on February 5.

The four are the Arakan Army, the Kachin Independence Army, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army in Kokang, and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, a Palaung group in Shan state.

This is the first time ethnic rebel armies have been prevented from using Facebook, and it comes after the social media giant banned several Myanmar military officials last year, including commander-in-chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.

“In an effort to prevent and disrupt offline harm, we do not allow organizations or individuals that proclaim a violent mission or engage in violence to have a presence of Facebook…we don’t want anyone to use Facebook to incite or promote violence, no matter who they are”, the statement said.

Last year, altogether 424 Facebook pages, 17 Facebook groups, 135 Facebook accounts and 15 Instagram accounts in Myanmar were removed.

Some of those accounts were disguised as independent entertainment, information and beauty pages, but could be linked to the Myanmar military.

Facebook is extremely popular in Myanmar and has an estimated 18 million accounts in a country of 51 million people. It is relied on heavily by individuals as well as the government — and various armies — to make announcements.

Min Aung Hlaing had two Facebook accounts, one with 1.3 million followers and another with 2.8 million, before those were taken down.

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