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Hun Sen’s Facebook Page Goes Dark After Spat with Meta

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Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen’s normally highly active Facebook account appears to have been deleted on Friday, a day after Facebook’s parent company Meta’s oversight board recommended it be banned from the platform for threatening political opponents with violence.

The showdown pits a social media giant against one of Asia’s longest-reigning dictators.

Hun Sen, 70, has ruled Cambodia since 1985 and has maintained power by silencing his critics. He is a staunch ally of China, a country whose support does not require US-style admonitions about the values ​​of human rights and democratic institutions.

A Friday memo on Hun Sen’s account, which has nearly 14 million followers, read:currently unavailableIt will soon be clear if Hun Sen took down preemptively, as he vowed to do so in a post late Thursday on Telegram, a social media platform with far fewer followers. isn’t it. A Meta spokesperson said on Friday that the company had not suspended or deleted Hun Sen’s Facebook account.

“It is his private right that he has stopped using Facebook,” Cambodian government spokesman Fai Siphan told The New York Times on Friday. “Other Cambodians use it too and it’s their right.”

Meta’s oversight board appointed by the company said Thursday, Recommended Hun Sen’s Facebook and Instagram accounts, which are also owned by Meta, will be suspended for at least six months. The commission also said one of Hun Sen’s Facebook videos violated Meta’s provisions on “violence and incitement” and should be removed.

In the video, Hun Sen delivered a speech in which he urged political opponents to choose between the legal system and “bats” in response to vote-stealing allegations.

“If that’s freedom of expression, then I also express freedom by sending people to your places and homes,” Hun Sen said in a speech, according to Meta.

Meta had previously decided to keep the video online based on the platform’s policy of allowing content that violated Facebook’s community standards because it was newsworthy and served the public interest. . But the oversight board said on Thursday that it would reverse the decision, saying it was “wrong”.

The board said its recommendation to suspend Hun Sen’s account for at least six months was based on the seriousness of the violations, his “history of committing human rights abuses and threatening political opponents, and the social media platform to amplify such actions.” It added that it was justifiable given the “strategic use of threat. “

Meta later said in a statement that it would remove the video in question as determined by its board of directors. The company said it would respond after analyzing the suspension recommendation.

Critics of Facebook have long argued that the platform undermines democracy, promotes violence and could help politicians unfairly target their critics, especially in countries with weak institutions. rice field.

Hun Sen has spent years cracking down on media outlets and political opponents to consolidate his grip on power. In February, he ordered one of the country’s last independent media outlets to shut down, saying he didn’t like the coverage of his son and likely successor, Lieutenant General Hun Mane.

The government has also pushed for increased internet surveillance under Hun Sen, a move that rights groups say will make it easier for authorities to monitor and punish online content.

Hun Sen’s large following on Facebook may exaggerate his true support. In 2018, one of the prime minister’s most prominent political opponents, Sam Rainsy, claimed in a California court that the prime minister used so-called click farms to amass millions of fake followers.

Sam Rainsy, who is in exile, also alleged that Hun Sen used Facebook to spread false news and death threats against political opponents.later in court refused his request Facebook will be forced to publish the ad buying records of Hun Sen and his supporters.

In 2017, the Cambodian National Rescue Party, led by Sam Rainsy, was dissolved by the country’s Supreme Court. Cambodian authorities recently disqualified other opposition parties from running in next month’s general elections.

At a public event in Cambodia on Friday, Hun Sen said political opponents abroad were undoubtedly happy with his decision to leave Facebook.

Speaking at an event for garment workers ahead of the general election, he added: “If I order Facebook to shut down in Cambodia, it will have a strong impact on you.” . “But this is not the path I chose.”

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