Saifulrohin

By Saifullah Muhammad

On Tuesday, Senator Patrick Leahy confronted Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg with examples of hate speech posts inciting violence against the Rohingya in Burma.

While Mark Zuckerberg has pledged to improve Facebook’s response to hate speech posts, civil society organizations in Burma have told him, in a letter shared with the New York Times, that these improvements are “nowhere near enough” to prevent “real harm.”

Hate speech on Facebook by ultranationalist groups has fueled the Burmese army’s march towards genocide of the Rohingya. Alan Davis, an analyst from the Institute for War and Peace Reporting who led a two-year study of hate speech in Burma (Myanmar), told The Guardian (UK) that, in the months before the Burmese army’s offensive against the Rohingya in August 2017, he noticed posts on Facebook becoming “more organised and odious, and more militarised”

Myanmar ultra-nationalist monks are spreading hate speech against Rohingya people in the capital city of Myanmar. Photo by Chaingrain

According to the Guardian, his research team encountered fabricated stories stating that “mosques in Yangon are stockpiling weapons in an attempt to blow up various Buddhist pagodas and Shwedagon pagoda”, the most sacred Buddhist site in Yangon in a smear campaign against Muslims. These pages also featured posts calling Rohingya the derogatory term “kalars” and “Bengali terrorists”.

In a recent report on the Rohingya crisis, Marzuki Darusman, head of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, said Facebook “substantively contributed to the level of acrimony and dissension and conflict” in Burma.

“Hate speech is certainly of course a part of that,” Darusman said. “As far as the Myanmar situation is concerned, social media is Facebook, and Facebook is social media.”

Let us join the civil society organizations in Burma – including Phandeeyar, the Myanmar ICT for Development Organization, and the Center for Social Integrity – in pushing Facebook to demonstrate that it is taking effective and transparent action to shut down hate speech said Simon Billenness, Executive Director of The Action Network.

Thet Swe Win, a Buddhist civil rights activist, is one of the few liberal voices in the country willing to speak out about the Rohingya, yet he feels he must be guarded with his words. At a recent human rights conference he avoided confronting the issue directly because of the hostility.

“This Rohingya case, it divided the people. I have seen many of the human rights defenders supporting the killing of the Rohingya people. They wrote it on Facebook: ‘They should not be here, they’re intruders, they’re terrorists, kill them all.’ It makes me not speak out as much as I want to those people,” he said.

A letter was signed by the general public demanding that Facebook must stop ultranationalist groups in Burma from spreading anti-Muslim and anti-Rohingya hate speech on its platform.

This hate speech has fueled the Burmese army’s march towards genocide of the Rohingya. And what Facebook will do to ensure that it never lets its platform to be used again for campaigns of hate speech.

Alan Davis, an analyst from the Institute for War and Peace Reporting who led a two-year study of hate speech in Burma (Myanmar), told The Guardian (UK) that, in the months before the Burmese army’s offensive against the Rohingya in August 2017, he noticed posts on Facebook becoming “more organised and odious, and more militarised” According to the Guardian, his research team encountered fabricated stories stating that “mosques in Yangon are stockpiling weapons in an attempt to blow up various Buddhist pagodas and Shwedagon pagoda”, the most sacred Buddhist site in Yangon in a smear campaign against Muslim Rohingya.

If Facebook does indeed take this seriously, tell us what Facebook will do to ensure that it never lets its platform to be used again for campaigns of hate speech, the letter included. Rohingya people are being widely abused and exploited. They are one of the most persecuted minorities in the world.

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