UN report says Facebook played role in violence against Rohingya

Rohingya refugees walk at Jamtoli camp in the morning in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, January 22, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain

A United Nations (UN) fact-finding mission has determined that Facebook played a role in spreading hate speech against the highly persecuted Rohingya minority in Myanmar.

In a report submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Council this week, fact-finding mission chairman Marzuki Darusman emphasized the “determining role” of social media networks in the conflict.

“It has substantively contributed to the level of acrimony and dissension and conflict, if you will, within the public,” said Darusman.

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

The fact-finding mission was launched in March in response to reports of human rights abuses against the ethnic minorities located in the states of Rakhine, Shan, and Kachin in Myanmar. During the mission, the three-member team conducted hundreds of interviews with Rohingya refugees who have fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh, Thailand, and Malaysia. Darusman described the refugee stories as “credible accounts of the most harrowing nature.”

In a separate report submitted by U.N. special rapporteur for human rights Yanghee Lee to the Human Rights Council, she described how the violence against the Rohingya minority bore “the hallmarks of genocide.” The report also noted that there are “high levels of hate speech and incitement to hostility, discrimination and violence, particularly on social media.”

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

More than 671,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled the country following a military crackdown against them in August. The offensive against the Rohingya included reports of murder, arson, and rape by the Burmese security forces.

Facebook has said that “there is no place for hate speech” on the social media platform. They also noted that they have invested significantly in technology and local language expertise in order to remove hate content from the platform, as well as users who repeatedly violate hate speech policies.