Facebook has removed an anonymous defamatory post and the account by the name, Solo Pentang, the first case from Bhutan this election period.

Department of Information Technology and Telecom (DITT), the point of contact for Facebook officials in Bhutan had requested Facebook, on September 10 to remove the post from the Bhutanese News & Forum page.

DITT’s focal person for Facebook, Sonam Choki yesterday evening said that the Facebook office has removed the account user Solo Pentang and all posts made from the account.

The post was made on September 8 on the media arbitrator’s findings on Dasho Sonam Kinga’s Facebook post. According to the media arbitrator, Dr Chador Wangdi, the post was defamatory and in violation of ECB social media rules and regulations. The media arbitrator’s office had reported the post to DITT.

Sonam Choki said that as required, DITT has created a separate email to report cases to Facebook. DITT also got the social media unit page, which is used to share information on social media rules immediately verified (blue tick) as an authentic page on August 31 by Facebook.

While this may be lone case reported to Facebook, national social media monitors at the department of information and media (DoIM) have until yesterday found 13 Facebook posts, including those from the dzongkhags violating the social media rules.

National social media monitor Tashi Choden said most of the 13 cases are posted through anonymous accounts on Bhutanese News & Forum page. Until yesterday, the office has received reports from dzongkhag social media monitors of Lhuentse, Trashiyangtse, Haa, Mongar and Wangduephodrang. The social media monitors in the dzongkhags monitor posts on the candidates.

From the dzongkhags

Social media monitor in Mongar, Thinley Wangchuk said he reported three Facebook posts by anonymous users on Bhutanese news & Forums to the headquarters in Thimphu. He said they first message the account user and the page administrator that the post violates ECB social media rules and to remove the post. After verifying if the post has been removed or not, a report is filed stating the case as resolved or unresolved. “Most fall under third party advertising and defamation,” he said.

Lhuentse’s social media monitor Gyem Lham said she also reported three cases of defamation on the group made from anonymous users. “The users don’t read the message requesting them to remove the post,” she said. “They create an account just to make the post.”

From Haa, the social media monitor Dolma reported a case of defamation made by an anonymous user on Bhutanese news & Forums against a candidate. She reported to the national social media monitor after her request to remove the post went unheeded.

On September 5, Trashiyangtse’s social media monitor, Kinzang Dema reported a defamatory post made from an anonymous user on Bhutanese news & Forums. The user has not seen her message to remove the post and has not removed it either.

The only instance where social media users have complied to the social media monitor’s request was in Wangdue. However, it was not a case of anonymous users.

Wangdue’s social media monitor, Yeshi Peldon reported two cases on the first week of September. The first was a Facebook page, with a good number of members and managed by a local resident where it was found to be promoting a particular party.  She said that after she messaged the page administrator of the social media rules, the post was removed.  The other case was of a candidate who had shared a post on Dasho Sonam Kinga’s Facebook post. After she informed that the post could qualify for mudslinging, the candidate also removed the post.

Posts against DNT

Beside these cases, the election commission’s September 9 press release states that one of the eight complaints it received was lodged by the chairman of Singye Group of Company (P) Ltd, Ugyen Tsechup against an anonymous user, Jigs Rinpoche regarding a post against the company over affiliation with Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT).

Ugyen Tsechup’s complaint to the media arbitrator states that Jigs Rinpoche, posted in Bhutanese news & Forum accusing Singye Group of Company and Ugyen Tshechup of financing DNT. “It has led to many enquires by their business partners from abroad thereby losing credibility and competency of the Company,” the commission’s press release states.

With the dzongkhag and central dispute settlement bodies dissolved, ECB said the cases are currently under review with the commission.

It is important for authorities to take action against false posts on social media, Ugyen Tshechup told Kuensel. “ECB can write to Facebook. There are ways of tracing anonymous accounts if there is a will to do so,” he said.

He said people using anonymous accounts to make constructive criticisms is okay but when the users cause unrest and friction, then there has to be some actions. “Facebook has closed down accounts and revealed the IP addressees to the authorities in other places. There has to be mechanisms put in place and our authorities have to ensure that this kind of fake news isn’t used to disturb peace and harmony in the country.”

DNT, which has been seeing an increasing number of posts against the party, has so far recorded 14 anonymous posts on Facebook. “We have lost count after that but it keeps rising,” DNT’s media team told Kuensel.

DNT’s general secretary, Phurba said it has been DNT’s firm belief to never have anonymous social media accounts, Facebook in particular, to launch attacks on, or defame other political parties or their candidates. “It only fuels hatred and celebrate division among people and communities, which our small nation cannot afford,” he said. “Such malicious election stratagems, rife on social media platforms today, around this time of the election period, are a legacy of the last election processes we would like to see end.”

Of late, DNT said it has fallen victim to some anonymous Facebook accounts, secured under the veil of anonymity, vilifying some of its candidates and the party’s aspirations.

“They have pulled out our logo, design templates and images of candidates to replace the contents with some atrocious messages, intent on discrediting the party,” Phurba said. “We have faith in ECB, the right authority, to act against such posts and people behind it. ECB’s social media regulations disallow hate messages and contents bent on defaming a political party or its candidates leading to compromise of its positive electoral outcomes.”

Sonam Pelden 


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