Rights Group: Myanmar Soldiers Use TikTok to Threaten Protesters

04 March 2021

A rights group says soldiers and police officers in Myanmar have used the video sharing service TikTok to issue death threats against protesters.

The digital rights group, called Myanmar ICT for Development (MIDO), said it had found more than 800 pro-military videos that threatened demonstrators. The information led TikTok to announce it would remove material that incites violence.

The demonstrations -- which have continued across Myanmar -- are protesting last month's military takeover of the country. The protests have grown increasingly violent, with a United Nations official saying 38 protesters were killed Wednesday – the highest daily death rate since the takeover happened on February 1.

"Today ... was the bloodiest day since the coup happened," U.N. special envoy for Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, told reporters Wednesday. The official added that more than 50 people had died since the start of the takeover.

Numerous videos of violence were shared online. One showed security forces shooting a person at close range, while others showed protesters being chased and beaten. Soldiers and police officers have also been seen firing rubber bullets and tear gas at demonstrators. More than 1,000 people have been arrested, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners has reported.

People build barricades to deter security personnel from entering a protest area in Mandalay, Myanmar, Thursday, March 4, 2021. (AP Photo)
People build barricades to deter security personnel from entering a protest area in Mandalay, Myanmar, Thursday, March 4, 2021. (AP Photo)

The demonstrations continued on Thursday.

The director of the MIDO group, Htaike Htaike Aung, said her organization had discovered "hundreds" of videos of soldiers in military uniforms on the TikTok app.

Reuters news agency reported it was able to watch more than 12 videos in which uniformed men – sometimes showing guns – threatened to harm protesters. A spokesman for the country's military leadership did not answer a request by Reuters for comment.

One video seen by Reuters reporters showed a man in army clothing aiming a gun at the camera and telling protesters: "I will shoot in your ... faces ... and I'm using real bullets." The man continued: "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 fulfill your wish."

Reuters was unable to contact the man or other uniformed men appearing in TikTok videos. The news agency was also not able to confirm that the men were members of the armed forces.

In a statement, TikTok said its guidelines do not permit material "that incites violence or misinformation that causes harm." The company said it has been, and will continue, to remove all videos that violate these guidelines. TikTok rules ban the showing of guns unless they are in "safe environments."

Some of the videos had tens of thousands of views. Those seen by Reuters were removed this week.

TikTok had already been growing fast in Myanmar. It saw a strong rise in downloads after the military banned Facebook last month. Industry data shows the app is now among the top 20 most downloaded in Myanmar.

I'm Bryan Lynn.

Reuters reported this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the report for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.

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Words in This Story

digitaladj. using or relating to computer technology

coup n. a sudden attempt by a small group of people, often military members, to seize and takeover the government of a country often involving violence

uniformn. special clothing that is worn by all members of an organization such as an armed service, police, profession or sports team

appn. a computer application or program used for a specific purpose

patrol v. to look for trouble or danger around an area or building

martyrn. someone who dies for their beliefs