Myanmar’s military regime victimising women online

A report by Myanmar Witness reveals that since the 2021 coup, attacks on social media have increased fivefold. Targeted “doxxing” is widespread. Many offensive posts have been removed, but the research is based only on a small fraction of online abuse.

Yangon (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Myanmar women who criticised the country’s military government on social media have been subjected to online abuse, including threats of rape and death, this according to a study by Myanmar Witness, a human rights NGO, in cooperation with Sisters to Sisters, an organisation that supports women in and from Myanmar,

The study points the finger at accounts linked to the government established on 1 February 2021 by the military after they seized power in a coup, starting a civil war that is still unfolding.

After analysing hundreds of posts on Facebook and various Telegram channels, the two NGOs found that politically motivated online abuses jumped fivefold since the army took over, with a clear prevalence of attacks on Telegram, where offensive content has increased by up to 500 times compared to other social media.

The report states that, “Survivors report attacks on their views, person and dignity, and threats of rape, death and violence with severe emotional and psychological impacts”.

As a result, “Online abuse and doxxing attacks are having a silencing effect and causing women to retreat from public life”.

Doxxing is the act of releasing a person’s personal information (name, address, photo) without their consent.

According to the study, “28% of all doxxing posts analysed in the qualitative study include an explicit call for the targeted women to be punished offline.” In fact, “Almost all of these called on Myanmar military authorities to arrest the targeted woman and/or seize her property”..Bas du formulaire

In most cases, the targeted women had shared comments on social media in favour of armed resistance, which includes ethnic militias and the People's Defence Forces, the armed wing of exiled National Unity Government (NUG) formed mostly by former lawmakers and members of Myanmar’s ousted democratic government.

The study also reveals that attacks by pro-government users were coordinated in order to amplify the campaigns against women, using vulgar, violent, and sexualising language.

“Dehumanising sexualised language and imagery mirrors tactics known to have been used by the Myanmar military to dehumanise the Rohingya population,” the report said.

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

Yet Myanmar Witness said that the findings are just "the tip of the iceberg" of online abuses by military junta supporters, evidence that the fight between the regime and pro-democracy forces has moved to cyberspace.