Update > Facebook in Politics

Facebook in Politics


With over 2.9 billion monthly active users as of 2022, Facebook is the largest social network in the world.[1]It is owned by Meta, a company which also owns Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp.

With such a large user base, Facebook is a crucial tool for political communication and engagement globally. Political parties, candidates, civil society and governments use the platform to reach out to voters, share their policies and messages, and mobilize supporters all over the world.

According to a study made in Germany by the scholar of political communication Ole Kelm at the German Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf[2], politicians aim to get favorable reactions and increase their visibility though Facebook, and therefore they use messages to satisfy their audiences’ expectations.

According to the study, many politicians use social media to broadcast information and to communicate interactively with their voters. Interaction can strengthen democracy by building closer relationships between politicians and citizens.

However, this is not very popular: many politicians mainly broadcast information via social media, mostly about their political work (and less often about their personal lives), and rarely use social media interactively. Politicians from minor parties used Facebook more frequently for interactive communication than their colleagues from major parties.

Politicians from minor parties tend to perceive more strongly that their Facebook audience expects them to criticize other politicians or journalists. This can cause social polarization.

Controversies of Facebook in politics


Facebook is a controversial platform that has received a lot of criticism. Its founder Mark Zuckerberg advocates for free speech and democracy and often claims that Facebook is a bastion of free speech[3], but at the same time, Facebook has been used in large scale disinformation and misinformation campaigns against democracy.

Famously, the Brexit referendum of the UK in 2016 and the first election of Donald Trump in the same year where targeted by a misinformation campaign using personal data gathered from Facebook.[4] The British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica used personal data of 87 million Facebook users to first influence the referendum that led to Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, and then to help Donald Trump get elected as the president of the United States.[5]

Zuckerberg said to the US congress in 2018 that Facebook is responsible for the content on its platform. This was unusual, because typically internet companies view themselves as neutral platforms that are not responsible for what people share on their services. According to Zuckerberg, Facebook already removes some content such as suspected terrorist propaganda before anyone sees it.[6]

Even so, Facebook is often criticized for not reacting on hateful or false content, especially in languages other than global languages, such as English, Spanish and Mandarin Chinese.[7]

Facebook in Myanmar


The liberalization of Myanmar's telecommunications in 2014 made mobile SIM cards suddenly affordable, spurring a massive jump in internet users, and Facebook became the central platform through which new users experienced digital life.[8]

The platform was also adopted by political actors and offices across the country, including in both the national government and non-state armed groups.

After the military coup in 2021, Facebook has been banned in Myanmar[WH1] [ES2]  by the military junta called State Administration Council or SAC. Even so, Facebook remains the most popular social media platform, as the population has adapted to the harsh restrictions through the usage of VPNs (Virtual private networks). Meta has also banned the military junta from using Facebook and Instagram.

The internet has become a key terrain of struggle in Myanmar, with social media serving as a prime platform both for military propaganda and pro-democracy mobilization. Anti-coup forces have used social media to discredit and denounce the SAC and mobilize resistance campaigns on the ground by encouraging and coordinating protests, CDM, and armed attacks.[9]

Politicians and civilians alike have been able to use Facebook as a tool for self-expression and communication. However, freedom of expression is seriously under threat in Myanmar. As of 2022, new sections in the telecommunication law and especially a penal code provision 505A have been used to arrest and punish those who speak out against the Junta.[WH3] [ES4] [li5]  [10]

In response to this, Facebook has introduced a feature that allows Myanmar users to lock their profiles as well as adjust privacy settings. Even so, people have been arrested for talking too openly about politics in Myanmar.[IK6] [IK7] [IK8] 

Facebook as a tool for social movements


Globally, Facebook is an important communication and awareness raising channel for many global and local NGOs and social movements. Facebook is commonly applied by NGOs in branding, community engagement and education. Some NGOs design graphics such as Facebook profile picture frames, and many use Facebook as a fundraising tool.

Facebook usually serves as a one-way communications channel for NGOs rather than as an interactive tool. For example, according to a global study conducted in 2020, the climate-related NGOs conducts a lot of communication campaigns by providing information on problems associated with climate change.[11]

Social movements and socially active people use Facebook in their activism variedly, depending a lot on countries. For example, in Brazil it has been shown[12] that people who are active on Facebook are also more likely to be activists and have politically radical viewpoints, whereas in Afghanistan young people are very active in Facebook, but do not act politically in Facebook. The youth in Afghanistan follow presidential candidates, read their agendas, and sometimes commented on their posts, but their engagement in electoral activities is below average.

Risks of using Facebook in politics


Whereas social media provide people with new opportunities to access information, express opinions and participate in democratic processes, they can also undermine democracy and risks for both the citizens and the politicians.

According to an analysis by the European Parliament, there are five main risks of using Facebook and other social media in politics.[13]

1. Social media provide new and more effective ways to monitor people online, which can be

used by governments to target politically active citizens and silence dissent.

2. The promotion of personalised content on social media may lock citizens in informational

bubbles, thus affecting their capacity to form opinions.

3. The spread of false information on social media can undermine citizens' capacity to form and

express political views.

4. Efforts by social media platforms to tackle disinformation and other forms of deception

online may undermine users' freedom of expression and enable control over public opinion.

5. Social media platforms rely on a variety of user data to profile people and sell targeted


Because Facebook discussions are usually public and easy to spread, in many countries people prefer to discuss politics and organize activities more in private messaging platforms, such as WhatsApp, Instagram, and Signal.

Misinformation and propaganda on Facebook


Facebook has a set of policies in place regarding political content and privacy, which are designed to ensure transparency, accuracy, and user protection. On political content, Facebook requires all political ads to be labeled as such and provides a publicly accessible Ad Library that allows users to view information about the ads, such as who paid for them and how much was spent. It also requires political campaigns and advertisers to verify their identity and location before running ads.

However, sharing political content on Facebook can pose risks such as the spread of misinformation and propaganda, polarization and division of society, interference in elections, and threats to user privacy and security. It has been argued that Facebook’s algorithms promote inflammatory and harmful content[14].

These risks have been observed in various countries and political contexts, highlighting the need for greater transparency, accountability, and regulation in the use of social media for political purposes. In 2022, the European Union issued legislation that obliges companies like Google and Facebook parent Meta to police their platforms more strictly to better protect European users from hate speech, disinformation, and other harmful online content.[15]

In many countries that speak languages that are not widely spoken in Europe, such as English, German, French or Spanish, Facebook has had a lot of difficulties in regulating misinformation and harmful content. In Myanmar, Facebook has tried regulating racial and other offensive slurs, but Facebook does not have enough Burmese-speaking content moderators, and people tend to avoid certain banned words and replace them with slang expressions to avoid detection.[16] Therefore a lot of harmful content remains undetected.



[1] Number of monthly active Facebook users worldwide as of 4th quarter 2022, https://www.statista.com/statistics/264810/number-of-monthly-active-facebook-users-worldwide/

[2] Ole Kelm (2020), Why do politicians use Facebook and Twitter the way they do? Studies in Communication and Media, 9.Jg.,1/2020, S. 8–34

[3] The Guardian: Zuckerberg defends Facebook as bastion of 'free expression' in speech, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/oct/17/mark-zuckerberg-facebook-free-expression-speech

[4] The Guardian: Revealed: 50 million Facebook profiles harvested for Cambridge Analytica in major data breach, https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/mar/17/cambridge-analytica-facebook-influence-us-election

[5] The New York Times: Cambridge Analytica and Facebook: The Scandal and the Fallout So Far, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/04/us/politics/cambridge-analytica-scandal-fallout.html

[6] PBS News Hour: Facebook is ‘responsible for the content’ on its platform, Zuckerberg says, https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/facebook-is-responsible-for-the-content-on-its-platform-zuckerberg-says

[7] Time: Facebook Says It’s Removing More Hate Speech Than Ever Before. But There’s a Catch, https://time.com/5739688/facebook-hate-speech-languages/

[8] Brooten L, McElhone JM, Venkiteswaran G (2019) Introduction: Myanmar media historically and the challenges of transition. In: Venkiteswaran G, McElhone JM, Brooten L (eds) Myanmar Media in Transition: Legacies, Challenges and Change. ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute, pp.1–56. 

[9] Faxon, H. O., Kintzi, K., Tran, V., Wine, K. Z., & Htut, S. Y. (2023). Organic online politics: Farmers, Facebook, and Myanmar’s military coup. Big Data & Society10(1). https://doi.org/10.1177/20539517231168101

[11] Hong Tien Vu et al (2021), Social Media and Environmental Activism: Framing Climate Change on Facebook by Global NGOs, Science Communication 2021, Vol. 43(1) 91–115

[12] Cleno Couto & João Gabriel Modesto (2020), The influence of Facebook on Political Activism and Radicalism. Psico-USF 2020, Bragança Paulista, v. 25, n. 4, p. 637-64

[13] European Parliament (2021), Key social media risks to democracy, https://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/IDAN/2021/698845/EPRS_IDA(2021)698845_EN.pdf

[16] BBC: The country where Facebook posts whipped up hate, https://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-45449938


Why is it banned in Myanmar? Who is banning it?  [WH1]

 [ES2]If you want to elaborate on SAC’s motivations, its better you do it, to get the wordings right. I was told that the text provided should be completely neutral and not express political affiliation of any kind.

I believe this is the law that should be referenced here instead:  [WH3]


Sections 66(d) and 68(a) of the Telecommunications Law Section 66(d) of the 2013:


Telecommunications Law provides criminal penalties for ‘extorting, defaming, disturbing or threatening to any person by using any telecommunications network’. This vague provision has been one of the primary tools used by government authorities to target journalists, activists and others expressing critical opinions online.

 [ES4]For me, citing exact sections of the laws goes a bit far from explaining Facebook in politics, but feel free to add more paragaphs, if it is necessary in the context of Myanmar.

I think we need to mention section 66D under the telecommunication law which is used to arrest the people. [li5]

 [IK6]The source for this is not indicated? I can ask from Esa. Also, we could add something from the articles linked below. They are very critical of SAC, though, do we want to add something still?