Late Monday afternoon, about the same time the FBI warned about Russia and other countries using social media to influence the US midterm elections, Facebook quietly released a report showing the company’s platform was used to foment violence against the Rohingya in Myanmar.
The Rohingya, a minority mostly Muslim ethnic population of about 1.3 million people, face persecution in Myanmar (the country formerly known as Burma), where the majority of the country identifies as Buddhist, the rule of law remains fragile, and the army is a powerful political force.
Following attacks on authorities by a Rohingya militant group last year, the Myanmar military retaliated in violence that the UN has characterized as ethnic cleansing. An estimated 25,000 people have been killed in the violence, the UN claims, and 0ver 700,000 people have now fled to neighboring Bangladesh.
As the report by Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) observes, Facebook’s role in this crisis has been to act as a hate amplifier and distribution mechanism. About 20 million of the estimated 54 million people in the country use Facebook, or its other properties Messenger, WhatsApp, or Instagram.
Preserving and sharing data that can be used to help evaluate human rights violations was also suggested, especially data specific to the situation in Myanmar so the international community can better evaluate the company’s enforcement efforts.