Social Media in Burma: The good, the Bad and the Ugly

With cheaper SIM cards and a wider access to the Internet, everything is changing in Burma

INDONESIA

Sabtu, 09 Nov 2013 13:16 WIB

Author

Ko Swe DVB

Social Media in Burma: The good, the Bad and the Ugly

Burma, Social Media, reformation, internet, DVB

As more people in Burma get access to the internet though their mobile phones….Social media is taking off.
 
Cheaper SIM cards and a wider access to the Internet mean thousands are flocking to Facebook and other social media sites such as Twitter.

“Heys Food Catering Service’’ delivers food to customers in Yangon.

Thuya Win Zaw is the owner of the food catering service.

“We used Facebook to promote catering service. Most of our customers found us through Facebook.”

Customers can see the menu and photos online and order home delivery.

As a result of their online presence they are getting large orders from companies.

Journalist Mar J from the Myanmar Media Group is also uses Facebook for his work.

He gets inspiration from his Facebook friends’ posts.

“When I run out of material to write about, there are usually a lot of things happening online. Social media is essential for media people, and I think they should use it.”

But Mar J warns that news stories on the net should be scrutinised.

“Information on social media can be interesting, but when verified it often turns out to be either false or exaggerated. Some stories are just deliberate personal attacks.”

Recently, an interview about the ultra nationalist Buddhist 969 movement, allegedly written by Mar J, went viral.

But the interview was a fake and both the interviewee and Mar J were outraged.

“I called the actress for the truth. She said she was shocked. She had thousands of complaints in her inbox. She said she was feeling sick from the rumour.”

Nay Phone Latt is now the Executive Director of Myanmar ICT for Development.

He was recently released after being sentenced to 20 years in prison for publishing a cartoon of former president General Than Shwe on his blog.

He is concerned with how social media is being used at the moment. 

“There isn’t much of a difference in the numbers of people using social media with good intentions and those using it with bad intentions. However, those who write negative or sensationalist things seem to make more of an impact.”

Many Facebook users have more than one account; often it’s to stay anonymous behind a fake name.

“The number of accounts is more than the population of the users,” he says.

Some people believe the hate-speech posted on social media, is contributing to religious riots among the people.

Nay Phone Latt says people need to be aware that not all material found online can be trusted.

“There is a difference between official information and information published by an individual. So whenever false news is posted the concerned officials should swiftly respond to it and tell the truth.”

In a country where strict censorship has been enforced for half a century, the people of Burma are using social media to express their opinions openly for the first time.  

But this opening up has a dark side.



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