Myanmar soldiers and police are using TikTok to post videos of themselves brandishing their rifles and threaten protesters against last month’s coup, prompting the social media platform to remove content that incites violence.
Researchers from a digital rights group, Myanmar ICT for Development (MIDO), said it found over 800 videos of uniformed soldiers and police menacing protesters.
It comes as Myanmar saw its deadliest day since the military coup took place on 1 February, with 38 protesters killed on Wednesday alone according to the United Nations.
MIDO executive director Htaike Htaike Aung said: “It’s just the top of the iceberg.”
One video from late February, seen by Reuters, featured a man in army fatigues aiming an assault rifle at the camera and telling protesters: “I will shoot in your f***ing faces… and I’m using real bullets.
“I am going to patrol the whole city tonight and I will shoot whoever I see… If you want to become a martyr, I will fulfil your wish.”
Previously, Facebook was the platform of choice for Myanmar security forces and its supporters to spread menacing content or hate speech, but the tech giant has now banned all pages linked to the army.
Facebook itself was banned by the military last month. TikTok saw a spike in downloads following Facebook’s ban and is in the top 20 most downloaded apps in Myanmar, according to industry data.
TikTok said in a statement it does “not allow content that incites violence or misinformation that causes harm”, adding: “As it relates to Myanmar, we have been and continue to promptly remove all content that incites violence or spreads misinformation, and are aggressively monitoring to remove any such content that violates our guidelines.”
But social media users have pointed out a number of the videos remain on the platform, with tens of thousands of views, and have called on TikTok to ban Myanmar soldiers from using it.
One person said: “If TikTok does not take these videos down then we can take the matter in our hands and uninstall this garbage. No point in supporting such apps or businesses that has no sense of ethics or a sense of responsibility.”
Htaike Htaike Aung told Reuters that researchers believe the military is now attempting to grow its presence on other platforms.
Large numbers of protesters have been gathering in cities and towns across the country in protest of the takeover, which saw elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi ousted from government. She has been placed under house arrest and charged with possessing illegal walkie-talkies and violating Myanmar’s Natural Disaster Law.
Clashes between the military and protesters have become increasingly violent in recent days as security forces escalated its crackdown, repeatedly firing tear gas, rubber bullets and live rounds to disperse crowds.
The violence has drawn criticism from the international community, with some countries considering sanctions against Myanmar. Last month, the UK imposed asset freezes and travel bans on three generals in the military in response to human rights violations.
Boris Johnson condemned the killing of protesters on Thursday, tweeting: “I’m horrified by the escalation of violence in Myanmar and the killing of pro-democracy protesters.
“We stand with the people of Myanmar in calling for an immediate end to military repression, the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and others, and the restoration of democracy.”
Alongside the sanctions, the UK government has put in place further safeguards to prevent UK aid money indirectly supporting the military government, as well as new measures to stop UK businesses from working with them.
Additional reporting by agencies
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