U.N. Investigators Cite Role of Facebook in Myanmar Crisis


On Monday, human rights experts of the United Nations who are investigating a possible genocide in Myanmar said that Facebook had played a role in the spread of hate speech in the country.

Facebook had did not comment immediately on the criticism. However, in the past, the company has stated that it was working to remove hate speech in Myanmar and ban users who consistently shared such content.

Over 650,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled the Rakhine state of Myanmar into Bangladesh since insurgent attacks prompted a security crackdown last August. Many people have provided harrowing testimonies of rapes and executions by the security forces of Myanmar.

Last week, the human rights chief of the United Nations said that he strongly suspected that various acts of genocide had taken place. The national security adviser of Myanmar demanded “clear evidence.”

The chairman of the U.N. Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, Marzuki Darusman, informed reporters that social media had widely played a “determining role” in Myanmar.

He stated: “It has … substantively contributed to the level of acrimony and dissension and conflict, if you will, within the public. Hate speech is certainly, of course, a part of that. As far as the Myanmar situation is concerned, social media is Facebook, and Facebook is social media.”

Yanghee Lee, the U.N. Myanmar investigator, said that Facebook was a big part of public, civil and private life, and the government utilised the social media platform to disseminate information to the public.

She told reporters: “Everything is done through Facebook in Myanmar.” She added that Facebook had helped the impoverished country. However, she said that had also been utilised to spread hate speech.

She stated: “It was used to convey public messages, but we know that the ultra-nationalist Buddhists have their own Facebooks and are really inciting a lot of violence and a lot of hatred against the Rohingya or other ethnic minorities.

“I’m afraid that Facebook has now turned into a beast, and not what it originally intended.”

Wirathu, the most prominent of the hard-line nationalist monks of Myanmar, emerged from a one-year preaching ban last Saturday and said that his anti-Muslim rhetoric had nothing to do with the violence in the state of Rakhine.

Last month, as a response to a question about Wirathu’s account, Facebook said that the company suspends and at times, removes who that “consistently shares content promoting hate.

“If a person consistently shares content promoting hate, we may take a range of actions such as temporarily suspending their ability to post and ultimately, removal of their account.”