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Facebook asked to clarify role in fuelling ‘Rohingya genocide’

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There is much evidence that Facebook, the overwhelmingly most popular social media platform in Myanmar, has been used to vilify the Rohingya ethnic minority group, Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK (BROUK) claims. AFP

Facebook asked to clarify role in fuelling ‘Rohingya genocide’

An Argentinian court has asked the social media giant Facebook to clarify its role in “fuelling the ongoing genocide against Rohingya people and to share evidence crucial to holding the Myanmar military to account”.

The order was issued on February 24 but it was recently shared with Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK (BROUK).

Citing the order, BROUK on March 7 said the Federal Court in Buenos Aires requested Facebook to share evidence of anti-Rohingya hate speech on its platform, including from accounts linked to senior Myanmar military officials.

The move is part of the universal jurisdiction case on the Rohingya genocide that was opened in Argentina last year after a petition from BROUK.

“For years, Facebook has put profit before the lives of the Rohingya people. When military forces rampaged through Rakhine State in 2016 and 2017, Facebook turned a blind eye to the hatred that was being spewed on its own platform,” said BROUK president Tun Khin.

“This order by the Argentinian judiciary is a crucial step towards accountability for a genocide that is still going on today. Facebook must come clean about what evidence it has gathered and what steps it has taken to ensure that its platform will never again be used to facilitate some of the worst crimes known to humanity.”

In 2016 and 2017, the Tatmadaw (Myanmar military) launched vicious operations in Rakhine State which killed thousands of Rohingya women, men and children, and drove close to 800,000 to flee into Bangladesh, BROUK said.

There is much evidence that Facebook, the overwhelmingly most popular social media platform in Myanmar, was used to vilify the Rohingya before, during and after the campaigns, BROUK claimed.

The UN Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar in 2019 concluded that “Facebook is the leading platform for hate speech in Myanmar” and that the company has a responsibility to tackle its spread, it said.

While Facebook has since taken some positive steps – including strengthening monitoring in Myanmar language and banning military-linked accounts, activists and human rights groups have consistently said that the company’s efforts fall short of what is required.

The Argentinian judiciary now plans to reach out to Facebook to ask for evidence of which accounts and pages have been blocked or deleted since 2016 for spreading anti-Rohingya propaganda. The order further asks which pages belong to specific senior military and civilian officials, including Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, the Tatmadaw Commander in Chief and chairman of the ruling State Administration Council.

Facebook will also be asked to spell out how its own algorithms might have facilitated the spread of hatred against the Rohingya, and what steps the company has taken to prevent the dissemination of hate speech in the future, the rights organisation said.

The request from the court order will proceed under the treaty signed by the Governments of Argentina and the USA on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters in 1990.

On November 13, 2019, BROUK petitioned Argentinean Courts to open an investigation into the role of Myanmar’s civilian and military leaders in committing genocide and crimes against humanity against the Rohingya.

On November 28 last year, the Argentinian judiciary took the historic decision to accept the case and begin the first-ever universal jurisdiction trial anywhere in the world regarding the Rohingya.

THE DAILY STAR (BANGLADESH)/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

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