Sep. 29 (EUROPA PRESS) –
The NGO Amnesty International has accused the company Meta, owner of Facebook, for allegedly allowing the algorithms of the social network to contribute to promoting violence against the Rohingya population in Burma.
According to the organization, Facebook systems promoted violence against this Muslim minority during the atrocities perpetrated by the Burma Army in 2017, a fact for which it has asked Meta to be held accountable.
“The Meta Social Atrocity and the Right to a Remedy for the Rohingya Community details that Meta knew or should have known that Facebook’s algorithmic systems were driving the spread of harmful anti-Rohingya content in Burma, despite which the company did nothing “, the NGO said in a statement.
“In 2017, thousands of Rohingya minority people were killed, tortured, raped and displaced as part of Burma’s security forces’ campaign of ethnic cleansing. In the months and years leading up to the atrocities, algorithms on Facebook intensified a storm of hate,” said Amnesty Secretary General Agnès Callamard.
The organization maintains that while the Burmese Army was committing crimes against humanity, Meta was benefiting from the echo chamber of hate created by its “hate-intensifying algorithms.”
For this reason, Amnesty has demanded that the company be held accountable, since it considers that Meta has a responsibility to provide reparation to all the people who suffered “the violent consequences of its reckless actions”.
Sawyeddollá, a 21-year-old Rohingya refugee, has detailed to the NGO that he saw “horrible things” on Facebook, and that for a moment he thought that people posting such content was bad until he thought that the social network was also responsible for controlling its own platform.
The Rohingya population is a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority living in northern Rakhine State. In August 2017, more than 700,000 Rohingya fled Rakhine as Myanmar’s security forces launched a targeted and widespread campaign of murder, rape and systematic burning of houses.
The violence erupted after decades of discrimination, persecution and oppression promoted by the state against the Rohingya population that constitutes ‘apartheid’, according to Amnesty International.
“AN ANTI-ROHINGYA RESONANCE CHAMBER”
Meta uses engagement-based algorithmic systems to power Facebook’s news, rating, recommendation, and group services that shape what you see on the platform. The company benefits when Facebook users stay on the platform as long as possible by selling them more targeted advertising.
Displaying inflammatory content -_including hate speech and content that constitutes incitement to violence, hostility and discrimination_- is an effective way to keep people on the platform longer. In this way, the promotion and amplification of this type of content is key to Facebook’s business model based on surveillance, as detailed by the NGO.
In the months and years leading up to the 2017 atrocities, Facebook in Burma had become “an echo chamber for anti-Rohingya content.” Actors linked to the Burma Army and radical Buddhist nationalist groups flooded the platform with anti-Muslim content, posting disinformation about an impending Muslim takeover in the country and portraying the minority population as “invaders”.
In a post that was shared more than 1,000 times, a Muslim human rights defender was depicted as a “national traitor.” Comments to the post included threatening and racist messages, such as “He’s a Muslim. Muslims are dogs and should be shot” and “Don’t let him live. Eliminate his entire race. Time is running out.”
Content inciting violence and discrimination reached the very top of Burma’s military and civilian leadership. General Min Aung Hlaing, head of the country’s Armed Forces, posted on his Facebook page in 2017: “We openly declare that our country has absolutely no Rohingya race.” The general seized power in a coup in February 2021.
Still, the United Nations Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Burma ultimately concluded that the “role of social media (was) considerable” in the atrocities in a country where “Facebook is the Internet.”