Facebook admits failings over Rohingya persecution in Myanmar


The company admits failing to prevent people using Facebook to encourage what the UN called “ethnic cleansing” in damning reports.

Almost a million Rohingya refugees are in Bangladesh camps after fleeing Myanmar

Facebook has admitted failing to do enough to prevent users inciting violence against Myanmar’s minority Rohingya population following an independent assessment of its services impact on human rights.

The report was completed by BSR (Business for Social Responsibility), an independent non-profit company, which also said Facebook couldn’t alone “bring about the broad changes needed to address the human rights situation in Myanmar”.

Despite this, in March a UN investigator accused Facebook of being used to incite violence and racial hatred against the Rohingya – violence which the UN called a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.

:: Rohingya babies dumped and left to die

Rohingya refugees flee Myanmar
Image:
Rohingya refugees left Myanmar after being persecuted
The social media company admitted: “We know we need to do more to ensure we are a force for good in Myanmar, and in other countries facing their own crises.”

Facebook banned several high-ranking Myanmar military officials in August for encouraging attacks on the ethnic group, and a month later stated it was hiring a director of human rights to address how it could be contributing to human rights abuses.

The UN’s independent fact-finding mission declared that senior figures from the country’s military “must be prosecuted” for genocide.

The denials of abuse by Myanmar’s officials ran counter to the racist language and celebrations of massacres which Facebook banned 20 of the country’s senior figures for.

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Before the bans were enforced the company was accused of perpetuating the persecution, and the question was put to Mark Zuckerberg directly when he appeared before US Congress officials earlier this year.

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Mr Zuckerberg seemed to suggest a lack of Burmese-language specialists had prevented Facebook’s moderators from quickly detecting posts dehumanising the Rohingya minority and inciting violence.

Thick black smoke rises from what is believed to be a burning village in western Myanmar
Image:
Thick black smoke rises from what is believed to be a burning village in western Myanmar
:: Satellite images ‘prove Rohingya villages were burned’

The UN report stated: “Although improved in recent months, Facebook’s response has been slow and ineffective. The extent to which Facebook posts and messages have led to real-world discrimination and violence must be independently and thoroughly examined.”

The UK’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi that Myanmar must ensure there is “no hiding place” for those who carried out crimes against Rohingya Muslims when he visited in September.

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Sky’s Dominic Waghorn: Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt says treatment of Rohingya Muslims should be investigated
“Over the course of this year, we have invested heavily in people, technology and partnerships to examine and address the abuse of Facebook in Myanmar, and BSR’s report acknowledges that we are now taking the right corrective actions,” stated Facebook.

According to Facebook, Myanmar is “the only country in the world with a significant online presence that hasn’t standardised on Unicode – the international text encoding standard”.

Instead the country’s population largely uses a different typeface, Zawgyi, and Facebook blamed the lack of a single text standard for posing “some very real technical challenges for us and others”.

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“It makes automation and proactive detection of bad content harder, it can weaken account security, it means less support for languages in Myanmar beyond Burmese, and it makes reporting potentially harmful content on Facebook more difficult,” the company added.

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It would work on addressing this lack of standardisation alongside some other outreach and community efforts in the future, the company stated.
source-news.sky.com

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