Virtual competition in post-coup Myanmar

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In cooperation with the convenor, Nhu Truong, New Mandala is happy to percentage a chain of articles in response to papers offered on the Other folks’s Energy and Resistance in Southeast Asia Roundtable on the thirty fifth Biennial Convention of the Canadian Council for Southeast Asian Research. You’ll be able to learn Nhu Truong’s advent right here.

Within the virtual manifestation of coup-related competition in Myanmar, the army each tasks a picture of itself as championing “true democracy” and reframes resistance actions as harmful for political balance. However, dissident forces focal point their on-line activism totally on anti-military narratives and broadcasting protest actions as a way to encourage and mobilise grassroots resistance to the coup. Whilst on-line anti-military content material has been more practical at attracting engagement than pro-military content material, this hole has narrowed through the years. This means that dissidents have an increasing number of faced virtual boundaries to mobilising in spite of in style public toughen.

Since March 2021 we’ve used CrowdTangle, a social media tracking platform owned via Meta, to assemble the 20,000 maximum viral public Burmese posts from all Burmese-language Fb pages and teams in keeping with day. We then created a random pattern of five,200 posts over 13 weeks, from the start of March to the tip of Would possibly 2021, to procure a normal figuring out of virtual competition within the early months following the coup. As Fb is via some distance the most well liked social media platform within the nation, analyzing Fb content material permits us to seize the essence of Burmese social media.

Present stories declare the Tatmadaw has actively hired public and covert propaganda to control narratives that body protestors as criminals, as a way to flip public opinion towards the resistance and in favour of the army. In our authentic dataset, we discover identical content material throughout pro-military pages and teams. This comprises labeling Civil Disobedience Motion (CDM) members and ethnic armed teams as riotous; blaming CDM medical doctors for the third wave of COVID-19; spreading disinformation accusing activists of destroying faculties, universities and monasteries, and of attacking blameless civilians; or even framing individuals who withdraw cash from their financial institution accounts as sabotaging the army management.

On the other hand, pro-military on-line content material used to be contained and had restricted affect. Just one% of overall posts or 3% of coup-related posts have been pro-military, and a lot of these posts attracted underneath 200 interactions. A very powerful query is whether or not social media merely replicate a pre-existing loss of toughen for the army or whether or not, via promulgating plenty of voices that debunk navy propaganda, those platforms themselves generate larger mistrust within the Tatmadaw’s rhetoric.

By contrast to pro-military content material, maximum dissident content material highlights resistance actions and army repression. It is usually rather prevalent amongst coup-related Fb posts, being shared via more than a few sorts of basically political and news-oriented pages and teams. Two NUG-related pages are some of the most sensible 10 pages with viral posts. Six activist teams, 3 of that are NUG-related, are some of the most sensible 10 teams with viral posts.

In consequence, dissident posts won a mean of 1000 interactions. The preferred put up used to be CRPH’s announcement that they might shape a parallel executive, with greater than 300k interactions.

Desk 1. Most sensible 10 pages & teams with viral posts

Desk 2. Most sensible 10 viral web page posts

Desk 3. Most sensible 10 viral team posts

Whilst dissident content material generated extra on-line engagement amongst Myanmar netizens total, two further developments warrant bringing up.

First, amongst dissident posts, content material expressing toughen for democratic values or the parallel Nationwide Solidarity Executive won much less engagement on reasonable than posts highlighting navy abuses or normal anti-coup resistance actions. Moreover, amongst coup-related content material, posts that point out navy crackdown towards activists won considerably extra destructive reactions than others. This means that there’s extra team spirit round competition towards the army than toughen for any specific faction inside the broader anti-coup motion, comparable to federal democracy or the NUG. As dissidents and abnormal social media customers can broadcast scenes of navy crackdowns and resistance to intensify well-liked grievances and facilitate coordination, this has most likely led extra folks to have interaction in anti-coup activism. Authoritarian repression is much more likely to backfire within the virtual age.

The second one pattern is extra surprising. We discover that the superiority of activist content material and engagement with this content material on public pages and teams in fact reduced through the years whilst pro-military content material and engagement greater. This might be because of one among two causes: both lower in public hobby and toughen for activists, or the migration of activist content material to personal teams or different encrypted platforms like Telegram as a way to steer clear of infiltration, tracking, and arrest. Professional-military customers, alternatively, can have mobilised later and felt relatively more secure with coverage from the army.

In brief, the Tatmadaw’s disinformation marketing campaign because the coup has neither controlled to dominate social media nor considerably sway public opinion in its favour. Maximum netizens don’t agree with or toughen navy propaganda. However, its standard means of cracking down on activist content material on Fb, via arresting on-line customers who have been discovered to make use of VPNs or put up anti-coup narratives, turns out to have curtailed the affect of dissident voices through the years. However for now, on-line content material exposing navy repression and broadcasting resistance actions continues to proliferate in spite of the specter of arrest. The in style use of social media via dissidents on this contemporary episode of anti-military fight has most likely facilitated a civil disobedience motion with larger grassroots toughen than ever—a building that the Tatmadaw would possibly to find tricky to halt.



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