According to a report released on Thursday by Amnesty International, Facebook should make amends for the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya who were driven from their homes in Myanmar as part of a campaign made worse by the prevalence of online hate speech.
A predominantly Muslim minority known as the Rohingya was persecuted by Myanmar’s military government in 2017 and forced into Bangladesh, where they have since lived in vast refugee camps.
The violence, according to victim advocacy groups and human rights activists, was exacerbated by Facebook’s algorithms, which, they claim, play up extremist content that fosters harmful disinformation and hate speech.
Many Rohingya attempted to report anti-Rohingya content via Facebook’s ‘report’ function, but were unsuccessful, Amnesty said in its report. As a result, ‘these hateful narratives proliferated and reached unprecedented audiences in Myanmar.’
It referred to the ‘Facebook Papers’ allegations made public by a whistle-blower in October 2021, which showed that business leaders were aware that the platform encouraged the spread of harmful content against ethnic minorities and other groups.
Representatives of the Rohingya community have filed three lawsuits against Facebook in the US, the UK, and with the OECD, a group of developed nations, in accordance with its standards for ethical business practises.
Refugees are requesting $150 billion in damages in the US lawsuit that was launched last December in California, where Facebook and its parent company Meta are based.
Amnesty International stated: ‘Meta’s refusal to compensate Rohingya victims to date – even where the community’s modest requests represent crumbs from the table of the company’s enormous profits – simply add to the perception that this is a company wholly detached from the reality of its human rights impacts.’
In addition to requesting that Facebook do ‘proactive human rights due diligence’ across all of its platforms, the NGO also encouraged national authorities to strengthen their monitoring.
States must uphold their responsibility to defend human rights by enacting and enforcing strong legislation to limit the use of surveillance-based commercial models across the technology sector, the report stated.
In response to calls to crack down on false information, particularly with reference to politics and elections, Facebook has pledged to reform its corporate values and processes.
The business has formed alliances with a number of media outlets, including AFP, with the goal of verifying internet posts and removing falsified ones.