“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,” chairman of the U.N. Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar told the reporters as a part of the interim findings of its investigation.
The state-sanctioned genocide in Myanmar has forced about 700,000 Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh.
The U.N. investigators who were initially refused entry to the country to investigate harrowing reports of rapes, killings and torture, are now, upon investigation, blaming social media for providing a platform that the government has used to disseminate information to the public, inciting violence.
“Everything is done through Facebook in Myanmar. 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,” the U.N. Myanmar investigator Yanghee Lee said.
“I’m afraid that Facebook has now turned into a beast, and not what it originally intended,” Lee added, unleashing her anger on the social media company.
However, the social networking site, which is being held accountable for spreading hate, has said in the past there is "no place for hate speech" on its platform.
"We take this incredibly seriously and have worked with experts in Myanmar for several years to develop safety resources and counter-speech campaigns. This work includes a dedicated Safety Page for Myanmar, a locally illustrated version of our Community Standards, and regular training sessions for civil society and local community groups across the country. Of course, there is always more we can do and we will continue to work with local experts to help keep our community safe," a Facebook spokeswoman told the BBC.
Accusations of the U.N. investigators didn’t come out of thin air, Facebook is indeed the entire internet for Myanmar, where it is explicitly being used to escalate ethnic cleansing.
The anti-Rohingya propaganda on Facebook was mainly initiated by ultra-nationalist Buddhist monk Ashin Wirathu, but also government and military accounts.
The final U.N. report will be published in September.
Banner/Thumbnail Credits: REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun