Women who have expressed opinions on social media opposing the military government in Myanmar are being subjected to abuse, including arrest warrants and threats of violence, rape and death by pro-military online users, according to a study.
Myanmar Witness, an organization that led the study, said social media platforms like Telegram and Facebook were not doing enough to address online abuse or responding quickly enough to requests to remove abusive users and content.
Politically motivated abuse against women from and in Myanmar increased at least fivefold after the military takeover in February 2021, according to the study, with the prevalence of abusive posts targeting women 500 times higher. on Telegram compared to other international social networks. media companies.
“The overwhelming majority of the abusive posts were written by male profiles supporting the Myanmar military coup and were directed at women opposing the coup,” Myanmar Witness said in The report released on Wednesday.
“Online doxing and abuse attacks have a silencing effect and cause women to withdraw from public life,” the report says.
“Survivors report attacks on their opinions, persons and dignity, and threats of rape, death and violence with serious emotional and psychological impacts,” he said.
“Doxxing” (the disclosure of people’s private data online without their consent, such as their home address, contact details, and personal photos) was the leading form of abuse found in the study, which involved 1.6 million users. Telegram posts, as well as case studies and interviews with people subjected to politically motivated abuse online.
The women subjected to the doxing appeared to have been singled out for commenting positively on groups in Myanmar that oppose the military regime, such as the shadow National Unity Government, which includes the formation of democratically elected legislators, and the People’s Defense Force. (PDF), who has taken up arms to fight against the military regime.
According to the study, “28% of all doxing posts analyzed in the qualitative study include an explicit call for targeted women to be punished offline.”
“Almost all of them asked the Myanmar military authorities to arrest the attacked woman and/or 16 her property,” he said.
Coordinated behavior was observed by those behind the abuse campaigns “through frequent sharing and mutual amplification of doxing posts,” as well as alerting authorities and celebrating the arrests of the targeted women, according to the study. .
Women were also the targets of sexualized disinformation campaigns in which pro-military social media users described their targets as “morally corrupt,” “racially impure,” “promiscuous,” and “sexual prey to PDF leaders and ethnic armed organizations.” (EAO) and foreigners”.
“The dehumanizing sexualized language and images reflect tactics known to have been used by the Myanmar military to dehumanize the Rohingya population,” the report said.
What the report uncovered 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 relied only on network posts. publicly available social Posts shared in closed social media groups could not be evaluated and Facebook’s data access policy does not allow for large-scale quantitative analysis.
“Without full access to the data from the platform, it is impossible to accurately assess the true scale or prevalence of abuse,” the study said. “This is particularly relevant to Myanmar’s most widely used social media platform, Facebook.”
The report’s authors said social media platforms need to be more accountable, 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 accessible 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 should also improve their response times when abuse and threats are reported, and should quickly remove abusive accounts when threatening activity is flagged, Myanmar Witness said.
In an update added to the report, the organization said that Telegram and Meta appeared to have removed “most of the abusive posts and channels identified during this investigation” as of Wednesday.