United Nations investigators cite Facebook role in Myanmar crisis

United Nations investigators cite Facebook role in Myanmar crisis

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.

Adama Dieng recently visited Bangladesh to assess the situation of the Rohingyas and said Tuesday that what he heard and witnessed "is a human tragedy with the fingerprints of the Myanmar government and of the global community".

Over 671,000 members of the Muslim Rohingya minority have fled Myanmar's western Rakhine state for neighboring Bangladesh since August 25, many bearing tales of atrocities committed by Myanmar's military, including executions, gang rapes, and the razing of homes and villages.

No social media service has more reach in Myanmar than Facebook, where nationalist hard-liners have been able to gather substantial followers by fanning the flames of anti-Muslim sentiment.

Adama Dieng, who this past week visited Bangladesh's refugee camps and met officials, also urged the UN Security Council to hold Myanmar to account over the "international crimes".

According to Marzuki Darusman, chairman of the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, social media had played a "determining role" in Myanmar. "Hate speech and incitement to violence on social media is rampant, particularly on Facebook". "Everything is done through Facebook in Myanmar", she said at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, reported ABC Online.

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U.N. Myanmar investigator Yanghee Lee said Facebook was a huge part of public, civil and private life, and the government used it to disseminate information to the public. Because of that, it's been easy for ultra-nationalists to use the platform to stoke hatred against the Rohingya minority, who have been targeted by government forces, killed by the thousands and driven out of the country.

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

The UN's Special Rapporteur on Myanmar also said that the Rohingya crisis in the Rakhine State "bears the hallmarks of genocide".

"I'm afraid that Facebook has now turned into a beast", Lee told reporters.

In late January Facebook removed the page of popular anti-Rohingya monk Wirathu, and previous year it regulated the use of the word "kalar" which is considered derogatory against Muslims.

"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", Facebook explained last month.

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