UN officials blast Facebook over spread of Rohingya hate speech

Sergio Conner
March 13, 2018

Lee, who was informed late a year ago that her access to the country was denied, also expressed serious concern that "the repressive practices of previous military governments were returning as the norm once more" in Myanmar, describing the situation faced by civil society across the country as "increasingly perilous".

U.N. 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. "As far as the Myanmar situation is concerned, social media is Facebook, and Facebook is social media", Marzuki Darusman, chairman of the U.N. Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar said, Reuters reports.

"And I am afraid that Facebook has now turned into a beast than what it was originally meant to be used in other parts of the world too", she added.

Lee told the Human Rights Council that violent sweeps by the Myanmar army in Rakhine state that prompted about 700,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee to neighboring Bangladesh "bear the hallmarks of genocide".

"Everything is done through Facebook in Myanmar", The Guardianquotedher as saying. At the end of February, Facebook removed the page of Myanmar monk Wirathu.

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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". The fact-finding mission is investigating whether the violence in Myanmar falls under genocide.

Beyond its global effort to bolster its content moderation by hiring more reviewers, it says it routinely removes hate speech content in the country, including Wirathu's account (although this only happened in late February), and that it has developed and promoted localized guidelines for using Facebook. We also created Panzagar stickers to help promote positive speech online.

Sri Lanka's government spokesman Harindra B. Dassanayake commenting on the ban said, "These platforms are banned because they were spreading hate speeches and amplifying them", while adding that the government believes fake news of ethnically motivated attacks circulating on the network encouraged retaliatory violence.

"Of course, there is always more we can do and we will continue to work with local experts to help keep our community safe", Facebook spokesperson has said.

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