United Nations officials blast Facebook over spread of Rohingya hate speech

A human rights investigator has found that social media played a "determining role" in spreading hate speech against the persecuted minorities in Myanmar.

A girl from the Pauktaw township stands in front of her family's shelter in a Rohingya internally displaced persons (IDP) camp outside Sittwe May 15, 2013.

In response to the United Nations criticism, a Facebookspokesperson on Tuesday defended the site's anti-hate speech strategy and said it had invested significantly in technology and local language expertise in Myanmar.

"The long-standing conflicts in Kachin and Shan states have recently intensified, leading to more reports of serious violations of worldwide human rights and humanitarian law committed in these areas by the security forces", it said.

Escalating violence has forced more than 650,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee across the border to Bangladesh, in what the UN's human rights chief has described as a "a textbook example of ethnic cleansing".

She said accountability for the abuses in Rakhine should be "the focus of the global community's efforts to bring long-lasting peace, stability and democratization to Myanmar".

Marzuki Darusman, the chairman of the U.N. Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, said that not enough is being done to counter the spread of anti-Muslim sentiment.

"It has. substantively contributed to the level of acrimony and dissension and conflict, if you will, within the public".

Lee, who was informed late past year that her access to the country was denied, also expressed serious concern that "the repressive practices of previous military governments were returning as the norm once more" in Myanmar, describing the situation faced by civil society across the country as "increasingly perilous".

Facebook is a major news source for people in Myanmar, where it has been used as a platform to stir up public outrage against the Rohingya. "And I'm afraid that Facebook has now turned into a beast, (instead of) what it was originally meant to be used (for) - maybe in other parts of the world too".

One of the most prominent nationalist Buddhist monks, Ashin Wirathu, whose profile was removed from Facebook, recently admitted that other social networks such as YouTube and Twitter do not work as well.

"There is a blurred line between freedom of speech and hate crime", said Lennon Chang, a lecturer in criminology in Monash University.

"If a person consistently shares content promoting hate, we may take a range of actions such as temporarily suspending their ability to post and ultimately, removal of their account".

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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