A dozen Facebook pages linked to Burmese phone operator Mytel were deactivated by Facebook on Wednesday, February 12, as part of its anti-disinformation program. These accounts managed six pages with almost 300,000 “likes” and presented as general information pages, but which were mainly used to publish false information about Mytel's competitors.
At the end of January, these pages had published articles accusing Wave Money, direct competitor of Mytel’s brand new mobile payment system, of stealing money from its users. The same article was published almost simultaneously on the different pages, notes the American anti-disinformation organization DFRLab.
Operator partly owned by the military
So far, almost all of the disinformation networks that Facebook has announced have been targeted for political gain. This Burmese network marks the first time that a company has been identified as the author of such a large-scale campaign.
Mytel is not, however, a traditional enterprise: 23% of its capital belongs to the private conglomerate MNTH, but the main part of it belongs to an alliance between two telecom operators controlled respectively by the Burmese army and the Vietnamese army.
Burma has in recent years been the scene of large-scale disinformation and hatred campaigns on social media, targeting the country's Rohingya minority, Muslims in this predominantly Buddhist state. Part of these campaigns has been allocated to the Burmese army. Facebook is accused of having reacted insufficiently to the increase in calls for violence on its platform; the social network has since announced that it has greatly strengthened its moderation teams.