Facebook* vs. Cambodia: A Lesson in Securing Information Space

A recent row between US-based social media giant Meta* (also known as Facebook*) and Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen, saw the Southeast Asian leader migrate from Facebook* to Telegram, a social media application popular in former Soviet republics and in a growing number of other nations around the globe.

Global Voices, a Western foundation-funded media outlet, in an article titled, “Cambodian Prime Minister quits Facebook* after Oversight Board review,” claimed that Facebook* representatives decided to suspend Prime Minister Hun Sen’s account for six months after allegedly “inciting violence”.

Prime Minister Hun Sen’s comments may or may not have constituted such a violation of Facebook’s terms of service, however the real issue at heart is why Cambodia’s leadership is being targeted and suspended while Washington-based politicians, their political allies abroad, and networks of opposition groups globally including those engaged in actual physical violence are not.

Militant groups backed by the US and its allies in another Southeast Asian country, Myanmar, for example, maintain accounts on Facebook* in good standing despite calling for, carrying out, then celebrating deadly violence on the US-based social media platform.

US-Based Social Media Platforms as a Tool of US-Sponsored Regime Change

This hypocrisy stems from the special relationship Facebook* and the US State Department have maintained for well over a decade, stretching back years before the US-engineered “Arab Spring” where Facebook*, other US-based social media giants, and the US State Department all worked together to train agitators ahead of the region-wide destabilization of the Arab World from 2011 onward.

This was even admitted at the time by the New York Times in a 2011 article titled, “U.S. Groups Helped Nurture Arab Uprisings.” The article admitted the role of the US government in training, funding, and equipping opposition groups as early as 2008 through the National Endowment for Democracy (NED is banned in Russia), its various subsidiaries and through “technology meetings” the New York Times admits were sponsored by, “Facebook*, Google, MTV, Columbia Law School and the State Department,” and specifically to “use social networking and mobile technologies to promote democracy.”

While the New York Times uses the term “to promote democracy,” it should be noted that a process in which political change was effected through foreign money and direction is, in fact, foreign interference merely masquerading as promoting “democracy.”

Just as was the case across the Arab World in 2011, the US seeks to reorganize Southeast Asia by coercing or removing governments in the region with close and growing relations with China as Cambodia does, and eventually transforming the region into a united front against China.

Why does Facebook*, operating on the other side of the planet from where Cambodia is located on the map, have more say regarding what can and cannot be said within Cambodia’s information space than the Cambodia government or its people? What’s worse is that Facebook’s* ability to decide what can and cannot be said and by whom is clearly done in pursuit of US foreign policy objectives at the cost of peace, stability, and prosperity both within Cambodia’s borders and across the wider Southeast Asian region.

The growing popularity of Telegram in Cambodia, noted by the Khmer Times’ article, “PM’s Telegram an instant hit with 888,888 and counting,” is a positive start to checking the unwarranted influence Facebook* and its partners within the US State Department have over Cambodia’s information space, but clearly much more needs to be done to truly secure its information space.

Information Space as a National Security Domain

It would be unthinkable for a sovereign nation to allow a foreign power to control its land borders, fly freely within its airspace, or ply the waters off its shores. Nations maintain armed forces to secure these physical domains of land, air, and sea.

Yet far too many nations have not only left their information space open and unguarded, but have left them utterly dominated by foreign interests, and US-based social media giants and their partners within the US State Department in particular.

In the 21st century, information space is as important a domain to national security as land, air, and sea. If a nation is protecting its land borders, airspace, and shores, but not its information space, it is not protecting its nation.

Nations like Russia and China, who have formidable capabilities in defending their respective physical domains and which export arms to nations around the globe to aid in likewise securing their respective borders, airspace, and shores, also possess advanced means of securing their information space.

Both nations have created their own social media networks, which have become infinitely more popular domestically than US-based social media platforms. As the threat of US-based social media platforms revealed itself, both nations began restricting their ability to decide how Russian and Chinese information space would be managed.

In China, for example, when Facebook* allowed its platform to be used to organize violence in the western region of Xinjiang, China intermittently blocked the platform before eventually banning it altogether. This followed repeated calls for Facebook* to not only respect local Chinese laws regarding extremism, but Facebook’s* own terms of service regarding inciting, promoting, and celebrating violence. It was another example of Facebook* violating its own rules as well as another nation’s national security to help advance what was ultimately a US foreign policy objective, the sponsorship of separatism in Xinjiang.

Exporting the Means to Defend a Nation’s Information Space 

Just as Russia and China export large numbers and varieties of defense articles ranging from firearms, ammunition, and armored vehicles to warplanes and naval vessels, both nations could also include to their defense exports the means of protecting a nation’s information space. Such exports could include assistance in setting up indigenous social media platforms, as well as technology and techniques used to better manage and protect the flow of information within a nation’s information space.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) has already repeatedly noted the dangers of so-called “color revolutions” to the national security and sovereignty of nations targeted by them. Targeting and taking control of a nation’s information space is a key component of the Western-sponsored color revolution. Arming nations with the ability to protect themselves against this threat seems like a logical step toward addressing this looming threat to national security and global stability.

Only time will tell if SCO members begin focusing on this issue of protecting information space as seriously as physical domains are already protected, and whether or not SCO members will eventually use their expertise in doing so as an opportunity to broaden their defense exports while also helping protect the sovereignty and stability of their trade partners and allies around the globe.

*Facebook (Meta Platforms, Inc) – is banned in Russia

Brian Berletic is a Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.


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