Amnesty International, in a report released on Thursday, Facebook should pay reparations to the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya forced from their homes in Myanmar in a campaign exacerbated by rampant online hate speech.
For years, Facebook, now called Meta Platforms Inc., pushed the narrative that it was a neutral platform in Myanmar that was misused by malicious people, and that despite its efforts to remove violent and hateful material, it unfortunately fell short.
That narrative echoes its response to the role it has played in other conflicts around the world, whether the 2020 election in the US or hate speech in India.
But Amnesty claims that Facebook’s preferred narrative is false. The platform, Amnesty says, wasn’t merely a passive site with insufficient content moderation.
Instead, Meta’s algorithms “proactively amplified and promoted content” on Facebook, which incited violent hatred against the Rohingya beginning as early as 2012.
On December 6, 2021, approximately a hundred Rohingya refugees launched a $150 billion lawsuit against Facebook, alleging that it did not do enough to prevent the proliferation of anti-Rohingya hate speech because it was interested in prioritizing engagement.
Facebook’s complicity in the Rohingya genocide
The Rohingya are seen as illegal migrants in Myanmar and have been discriminated against by the government and public for decades.
In 2017, the Myanmar military launched a violent crackdown in Rakhine state after Rohingya militants carried out deadly attacks on police posts.
Thousands of people died and more than 700,000 Rohingya fled to neighbouring Bangladesh. There are also widespread allegations of human rights abuses, including arbitrary killing, rape and burning of land.
In 2018, the UN accused Facebook of being “slow and ineffective” in its response to the spread of hatred online.
Under US law, Facebook is largely protected from liability over content posted by its users. But the new lawsuit argues the law of Myanmar – which has no such protections – should prevail in the case.
The chairman of the U.N. Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar stated that Facebook played a “determining role” in the Rohingya genocide.
Facebook has been accused of enabling the spread of Islamophobic content which targets the Rohingya people. The United Nations Human Rights Council has called the platform “a useful instrument for those seeking to spread hate”.