Arakan Army's Twitter activity identified using open-source analytics

by Ben Pierce

Myanmar was, at the time of writing, enforcing the world’s longest internet shutdown across swathes of Rakhine State to disrupt the Arakan Army (AA), an armed insurgent group fighting for greater autonomy in western Myanmar. Established in 2009, the AA describes itself on its website as a “revolutionary armed organization of the peoples of Arakan”, a historical region that largely overlaps with Rakhine State. The AA has been blamed for a number of attacks against Myanmar and Bangladesh’s security forces and is estimated to have several thousand combatants in its ranks.

The internet shutdown that began in June 2019 is an attempt by the authorities to control the narrative of military and civil operations within Rakhine, as government forces battle AA militants. Although the permanent secretary to the Ministry of Transportation and Communications U Soe Thein told the media on 12 June that the shutdown could be lifted by 1 August, it would be contingent on “no more threats to the public or violations of the telecommunications law”. Amid this shutdown, an online investigation by Janes has identified a network of social media accounts focusing on the AA insurgency. These accounts, predominately located on Twitter, are conducting an online influence operation in support of the AA, regularly publishing content that is sympathetic to the group while being critical of Myanmar’s military, which is locally known as the Tatmadaw.

Janes

Pro-Arakan Army information operation (©2020 Janes/Getty Images)

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Myanmar was, at the time of writing, enforcing the world’s longest internet shutdown across swathes ...

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