UN Finds Facebook Partly to Blame for Fueling Myanmar Genocide

A young woman looks at her Facebook wall while she travels on a bus in Yangon

Crimes verging on genocide were being committed against the Rohingya minority in Myanmar, and those crimes bore "the fingerprints of the Myanmar government and of the worldwide community", the United Nations special adviser on the prevention of genocide said on Tuesday.

Almost 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled northern Rakhine state to Bangladesh since Myanmar launched a brutal crackdown on insurgents six months ago amid accounts of arson, murder and rape at the hands of soldiers and vigilante mobs in the mainly Buddhist country.

"Everything is done through Facebook in Myanmar", she told reporters, adding that Facebook had helped the impoverished country but had also been used to spread hate speech.

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A human rights investigator has found that social media played a "determining role" in spreading hate speech against the persecuted minorities in Myanmar. "As far as the Myanmar situation is concerned, social media is Facebook, and Facebook is social media", he said.

United Nations special rapporteur for human rights Yanghee Lee also submitted a report to the Human Rights Council this week, warning that violence against the Rohingya bore "the hallmarks of genocide," and expressing concerns over "high levels of hate speech and incitement to hostility, discrimination and violence, particularly on social media".

"Everything is done through Facebook in Myanmar", The Guardianquotedher as saying. The UN is investigatinga potential genocide in the nation.

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The government ordered internet and mobile service providers to temporarily block Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram, as well as messaging service Viber, after officials said these platforms were fueling online hate speech. The quest for accountability "must be aimed at the individuals who gave the orders and carried out violations against individuals and entire ethnic and religious groups", Lee said. "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".

"The government leadership who did nothing to intervene, stop or condemn these acts must also be held accountable", she added.

Myanmar's civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi was last week stripped of a prestigious human rights award by the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, which accused her of doing little to halt the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya. So far, it's estimated that 700,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh as a result.

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Though Facebook has yet to comment on UN's recent statement, the social media giant has previously admitted that it faces difficulty in tackling hate speech.

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