Facebook admits failures in Myanmar human rights crisis

  • A report commissioned by Facebook on its role in Myanmar was published Tuesday.
  • Facebook has been accused of “creating an enabling environment” for human rights abuses in the country.
  • The report relates to the persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.
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Chris Ratcliffe | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Facebook has admitted it failed to prevent its social media platform being used to incite violence in Myanmar.

An independent report commissioned by the tech giant was published Tuesday, finding that Facebook had been misused in a way that contributed to human rights abuses in the country.

"A minority of users (in Myanmar) are seeking to exploit Facebook as a platform to undermine democracy and incite offline violence," it said.

Business for Social Responsibility (BSR), the non-profit that conducted the report, added that Facebook had "created an enabling environment for the ongoing endorsement and proliferation of human rights abuse in Myanmar."

This had been done in various ways, including character assassinations, rumor-spreading, and hate speech against minority individuals.

According to BSR, there were an estimated 20 million Facebook users in Myanmar in mid-2018, factoring in all of its platforms including Instagram and WhatsApp.

Myanmar's government has faced international condemnation for failing to halt the brutal persecution of Rohingya Muslims by military forces and Buddhist extremists. In September, the UN published a report that criticized Facebook's "slow and ineffective" response to its platform's involvement in the situation.

BSR's report made a number of recommendations to Facebook to curb further damage. These included creating a stand-alone human rights policy, publishing periodic human rights updates to the public, and conducting an annual public briefing on Facebook's human rights strategy and actions in Myanmar.

Recommending that the firm develop a "risk-mitigation" plan for Myanmar's 2020 parliamentary elections, BSR urged Facebook to ensure it did not neglect its obligations in the glare of the U.S. elections, which would occur at a similar time.

'More to do'

In a statement, Alex Warofka, Facebook's product policy manager, said the company had been working on the issue but had "more to do."

"Over the course of this year, we have invested heavily in people, technology and partnerships to examine and address the abuse of Facebook in Myanmar, and BSR's report acknowledges that we are now taking the right corrective actions," he said.

"As the BSR report notes, we have made progress towards many of the recommendations put forth in the report, but there is more to do … We know we need to do more to ensure we are a force for good in Myanmar, and in other countries facing their own crises."

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