Facebook Fueled Genocidal Horrors Faced by Myanmar’s Rohingya Minority: U.N.

Facebook has been blamed for allowing the stoking of racial hatred against the Muslim minority in Myanmar who faced “horrendous” crimes at the hands of the country's military.

United Nations investigators have released a damning report alleging that Myanmar's military, the Tatmadaw, had carried out brutal persecution of the Rohingyas with genocidal intent.

The report, presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) described "rape and other forms of sexual violence…on a massive scale. Rapes were often in public spaces and in front of families and the community, maximising humiliation and trauma."

There was targeted and indiscriminate killing with guns, bladed weapons, and arson attacks. "This disproportionately affected the elderly, persons with disabilities and young children, unable to escape. In some cases, people were forced into burning houses or locked into buildings set on fire," the report stated.

The 444-page report also criticized Facebook for not responding quickly enough to concerns that it was used as a platform for the spread of hate speech and misinformation. The U.N. panel complained of threats made against a human rights activist on the social network in a post that was only removed after several weeks.

The report said: “The role of social media is significant. Facebook has been a useful instrument for those seeking to spread hate, in a context where for most users Facebook is the Internet.

“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 report said.

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A soldier stands near the Cox’s Bazar refugee camp in Bangladesh, near Rakhine state, Myanmar, in April 29. Rohingya refugees have fled persecution from Myanmar and a new United Nations report accuses the Myanmar military of genocide with abuses including wide-scale rape and indiscriminate killing. REUTERS/Michelle Nichols

The social network is used by some 18 million people in the country. A Reuters investigation published in August found more than 1,000 examples of posts, comments and pornographic images on Facebook attacking the Rohingya and other Muslims.

These included comments like, “We must fight them the way Hitler did the Jews, damn kalars!” the person wrote, using a pejorative for the Rohingya. Another post read: “We need to destroy their race.”

In April, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg pledged to hire more Burmese speakers to review hate speech posted, but the improvements made since then have not gone far enough, the U.N. said.

“The Mission regrets that Facebook is unable to provide country-specific data about the spread of hate speech on its platform, which is imperative to assess the adequacy of its response,” the report said.

The report was compiled over 15 months and detailed the actions of Myanmar's military in Rakhine, Shan and Kachin states. Although denied access to the country, investigators pieced together the evidence from hundreds of witnesses who fled the country.

It called for Myanmar's generals, including the commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing, to be prosecuted for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

“Any engagement in any form with the Tatmadaw, its current leadership, and its businesses is indefensible,” the report said.

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Rohingya Muslims wait to cross the border to Bangladesh, in a temporary camp outside Maungdaw, in northern Rakhine state, Myanmar, on November 12. Facebook has been blamed for allowing the stoking of racial hatred against the Muslim minority in Myanmar. REUTERS/Wa Lone

Marzuki Darusman, the chair of the U.N. fact-finding mission, said in a statement that the Tatmadaw targeted civilians, including women and children, committed sexual violence, promoted discriminatory rhetoric against minorities, and "established a climate of impunity for its soldiers. I have never been confronted by crimes as horrendous and on such a scale as these."

Myanmar said a summary of the report was part of a campaign of “false allegations” against it by the international community and can respond to the full report in the UNHRC on Tuesday.