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A campaign against the use of hate speech on social media was launched on Friday in Rangoon, with activists distributing fliers in several busy parts of the former capital.
The campaign, named Panzagar (“flower speech”) is the creation of well-known blogger and former political prisoner Nay Phone Latt, now director of the Myanmar Information Communication Technology for Development Organisation (MIDO).
“We initiated the campaign to reduce dangerous speech that can spread hatred among people – it started today [Friday] and will be ongoing for some time,” said Nay Phone Latt.
“We are planning to hand out leaflets during the Thingyan festival and we have produced a song to go with the campaign.”
The campaign comes as Burmese nationalist and anti-Muslim propaganda have spread quickly over the Internet, much of it focused on the subject of communal violence in Arakan State and the status of that region’s Rohingya Muslim minority.
The Burmese government estimates that only 700,000 of its citizens are online, however social media platforms such as Facebook are increasingly popular and serve as a platform for political debate, which in some cases can turn vitriolic.
The pamphlets distributed on Friday featured the campaign logo of lips clasping a flower branch, as well as the slogan: “Let’s moderate our speech to prevent hatred among human beings.”
Hein Min Latt, one of the activists distributing the leaflets at the Rangoon Central Railway Station on Friday morning, said people should practice “flower speech” on the Internet but also in their day-to-day lives to stem conflict, particularly among different communities in the country.
“We want to prevent conflicts in society as well as moderate the way people talk about these conflicts — we see that everyone should engage in ‘flower speech’ as a way to promote an equal consideration for both sides of a conflict,” Hein Min Latt said.
The social media campaign asks netizens to create and post images and photos of lips clasping a flower branch to accentuate the need for online tolerance.