Facebook Must Not Be Used as a Tool for Genocide
Myanmar's military and radical Buddhist monks are using the social media platform in a campaign against Christians and Muslims
Ladies in straw hats with garden flowers are clearly more dangerous than radical monks who tell followers to attack anyone who has a different religion … well, according to Facebook, that is.
In this newfound era of privacy concerns and heightened corporate responsibility, Facebook has been walking an interesting line. Shortly after Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony of Capitol Hill, Facebook launched an advertising campaign to guide us mere mortals.
The campaign is titled “Together We Can Fight False News,” and goes on to say, “We are taking action by removing fake accounts and working with fact-checkers. You can learn what to trust with our tips to spot false news.”
“Trust?” There are myriad examples of why I am challenged to “trust” Facebook’s judgment, but none is more egregious that the genocide-fomenting campaigns that ran rampant on the social media network in Burma — on legitimate, verified Facebook accounts.
The Burmese military and radical Buddhist monks have used the network as a primary means of fomenting discrimination and hatred against Burma’s non-Buddhist minorities.
By 2016, Burma had more Facebook users than any other south Asian country. Even more significantly, most Burmese used Facebook’s Free Basics service as their only internet point of entry and thus saw postings as legitimate news.
While Burmese citizens regarded Facebook posts as gospel truth, Facebook’s Burma platform lacked monitors who understood the language, as Zuckerberg admitted in his May testimony on Capitol Hill:
“We’re hiring dozens of more Burmese-language content reviewers, because hate speech is very language-specific. It’s hard to do it without people who speak the local language, and we need to ramp up our effort there dramatically.”
Facebook’s problem was that its action plan in May of 2018 came years too late, as its unmonitored system was used to implement a “final solution” of genocide in Burma the year before.
The radical Buddhist military and citizens were incited by propaganda posts to launch a campaign to entirely expel 1 million people from their country. Beginning Aug. 25, 2017, the Burmese military began razing 400 villages of the indigenous Rohingya people, killing tens of thousands, raping 52 percent of the surviving women, and creating the world’s largest-ever refugee camp across the border in Bangladesh, which shelters 700,000 to 1 million refugees.
And the answer from Facebook’s CEO is “We’re hiring dozens of more Burmese-language content reviewers…” Should that not have happened before Facebook opened shop in Burma? Wouldn’t that be a minimal level of corporate social responsibility?
Before a company provides an operating platform in a foreign language, it might need to understand the language. After all, Facebook’s recent ad campaign to reassure us of its corporate responsibility includes:
“3) Investigate the Source. Ensure that the story is written by a source that you trust with a reputation for accuracy …”
7) Check the evidence. Check the author’s sources to confirm that they are accurate. Lack of evidence or reliance on unnamed experts may indicate a false news story.”
Facebook completely failed to monitor its platform in Burma. Facebook allowed Burma’s radical monk Wirathu to post unhindered for years until May of 2017. Wirathu used Facebook to thank suspects for murdering a political opponent, telling women they are better off marrying dogs than non-Buddhists, and inciting the violent and discriminatory 969 Campaign, which instructed Buddhists to label and refuse to do business with Muslims.
But as Wirathu preached, Burma’s ultimate military authority, Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, used Facebook to share military status updates about his army’s genocidal campaign against the Rohingya.
On Sept. 1, 2017, several days into his effort to purge Burma of 1 million Rohingya and raze 400 of their villages, he posted a status update that the problem “has become an unfinished job.” Apparently there are new terms for the “final solution” stage of genocide these days.
On direct calls for violence, Facebook minders repeatedly declined harassment requests for posts calling to “kill” people. Using specific examples of violence in Burma, here in America, our senators and congressmen have been piling on with key questions for Facebook.
In the nation’s capital, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) asked Zuckerberg: “Six months ago I asked your general counsel about Facebook’s role as a breeding ground for hate speech against Rohingya refuges. Recently, U.N. Investigators blamed Facebook for inciting genocide in Myanmar. And there has been genocide there … This is the type of content I’m referring to. It calls for the death of a Muslim journalist … Why couldn’t it be removed within 24 hours?”
I can think of 1,000,000 Rohingya refugees who want to ask the same question.
I can think of 130,000 internally displaced Burmese Christians in other refugee camps who also want answers. And, as for the Christians hiding in Burma’s jungles to avoid the military, they are probably torn between starvation and asking, “Why?”
In the midst of violent monks, where do the garden flowers and straw hats fit in? Well, Facebook has spent weeks blocking my “dangerous” friend Norma’s attempted “ad boost” about how she is going door-knocking to ask for her neighbors’ support in Baltimore.
Clearly, the Facebook thought police are wisely applying their power to ban American candidates, while allowing genocidal campaigns to rage on the social media network halfway around the globe.
On my end, as the spokesman for the Faith Coalition to Stop Genocide in Burma, Facebook spent the month of June blocking my “boost” of my latest op-ed. Lo and behold, it speaks about what Christians and Muslims have suffered at the hands of the Burmese military. It opposes “genocide.” And here, I have had a public Facebook page since 2012 with not a single problem until now.
Dear Facebook: I understand you’ve had growing pains, and btw, congrats on your tremendous success. Now, what are you going to do about your hand in creating the world’s largest-ever refugee camp? Specific solutions would be helpful — thanks!
Nicolee Ambrose is a spokesman for the Faith Coalition to Stop Genocide in Burma.