Is Facebook Exempt From New US Arms Embargo Imposed on Cambodia?

Earlier this month, the US announced a new embargo:

The United States government yesterday imposed an arms embargo on Cambodia, citing long-standing concerns about human rights, corruption, and China’s growing influence in the country. According to a statement from the Commerce Department, the move will “restrict” access to “dual-use items,” “less-sensitive military items,” and “defense articles and defense services” by Cambodia’s military and intelligence agencies.

Analysis of the embargo by The Diplomat adds this spice to the soup:

This doesn’t mean a lot – the U.S. is not currently a supplier of arms to Cambodia… one of the reasons that Hun Sen and his government have moved so close to China is precisely because of Western pressure over democracy and human rights issues, which they have long perceived as an attempt to undermine the power of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.

Is it true the US is not currently a supplier of arms? Not even dual-use technology (as I have written about before here in context of Ronald Reagan and genocide)?

Does Facebook count, given its use by the military there to prop up the ruling party?

The United States and human rights groups on Monday condemned the conviction of a Cambodian teenager who was sentenced to eight months in prison over messages he shared on Facebook and Telegram insulting ruling party officials. The sentencing comes amid a broad crackdown in Cambodia on the opposition, civil society and the media that began in the run-up to a 2018 election.

You may remember the argument that Alex Stamos, founder of the new U.S. government lobby group Krebs-Stamos, probably should be serving time in jail:

[Facebook’s role in genocide] begs a question how quickly can the platform be shut down and the ex-officers held accountable…

Deeper investigation of “items” in Cambodia is surely needed, not least of all because of the unique role Facebook plays in that country.

In 2018, the team at Facebook had a puzzle on their hands. Cambodian users accounted for nearly 50% of all global traffic for Messenger’s voice function, but no one at the company knew why…. While the Facebook employee imagined the behavior to be related to low literacy, Cambodia’s literacy rate is around 80%, according to the most recent World Bank data. […] The mainstreaming of voice messaging in Cambodia raises questions over content moderation and the spread of misinformation. Audio is notoriously hard to scan, lacks contextual clues, and it’s difficult to tell when it’s been manipulated compared to video. […] Audio message evidence has featured in some high-profile cases, such as the reputation smearing of Luon Sovath, an activist Buddhist monk who fled Cambodia. He alleged that incriminating Messenger recordings had been fabricated by Cambodian authorities. When asked about resources for this kind of moderation in Cambodia, a representative of Facebook, now known as Meta, only described general measures.

Is it possible that such Facebook staff communication failure is related to their low literacy? Perhaps the World Bank will let us know.

In the meantime, it’s worth considering whether an embargo that included Facebook would send the Cambodian government a more meaningful message. Of course it would have to be in text and thus on a platform other than Facebook’s.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.