United Nations investigators cite Facebook role in Myanmar crisis

A young woman looks at her Facebook wall while she travels on a bus in Yangon

A young woman looks at her Facebook wall while she travels on a bus in Yangon

The UN human rights experts have blamed Facebook for playing a key role in spreading hate speech against the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. Facebook did not immediately comment on the fresh charges.

Over 671,000 members of the Muslim Rohingya minority have fled Myanmar's western Rakhine state for neighboring Bangladesh since August 25, many bearing tales of atrocities committed by Myanmar's military, including executions, gang rapes, and the razing of homes and villages. Many have provided harrowing testimonies of executions and rapes by Myanmar security forces. But Amnesty International said the flattening of Rohingya villages and the new construction could make the voluntary, safe and dignified return of Rohingya refugees a distant prospect.

Marzuki Darusman, chairman of the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, told reporters that social media had played a "determining role" in Myanmar. He denied separate allegations that the bulldozing was to destroy evidence of human rights abuses by the army, a major concern of human rights groups.

"It has. substantively contributed to the level of acrimony and dissention and conflict, if you will, within the public".

United Nations special rapporteur for human rights Yanghee Lee also submitted a report to the Human Rights Council this week, warning that violence against the Rohingya bore "the hallmarks of genocide," and expressing concerns over "high levels of hate speech and incitement to hostility, discrimination and violence, particularly on social media". "As far as the Myanmar situation is concerned, social media is Facebook, and Facebook is social media".

UN Myanmar investigator Yanghee Lee said Facebook was a huge part of public, civil and private life, and the government used it to disseminate information to the public.

Lee adds that the ultra-nationalist Buddhists also have their own Facebook accounts which incite "a lot of violence and a lot of hatred against the Rohingya or other ethnic minorities".

In the past, Al Jazeera had highlighted how Facebook was used to amplify hate speech against Rohingya Muslims, while previous year, Daily Beast reported that activists documenting the alleged ethnic cleansing in Myanmar were silenced by Facebook, as their postings were removed and their accounts suspended.

"I'm afraid that Facebook has now turned into a beast, and not what it originally intended".

"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".

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