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'Shoot Rohingyas... trample them like cockroaches': calls for violence

Shoot Rohingyas... trample them like cockroaches: calls for violence

New Delhi: A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has been filed in the Delhi High Court, seeking action against the social media platform Facebook over its passive approach in screening hateful and problematic content, especially against the Rohingya refugees in India, Newslaundry reported.

The PIL was filed by two Rohingya refugees who fled Myanmar in 2018 and 2022, identified as Mohammad Hamim and Kawsar Mohammed. Their plea has cited 39 posts and accompanying comments, along with six videos and demanded action against Facebook India for not taking measures to check hateful content or not tweaking their platform algorithm to screen such content.

The 39 posts and comments the PIL cited were from India and were in Hindi, English and Bangla, and they included calls for open violence against the Rohingyas, excluding them from jobs and their imprisonment. The posts made wild allegations against Rohingya refugees that they are abducting girls and selling the kidneys of small boys. A post claimed that a large number of the refugees were going to Kerala by train, according to "intelligence agencies", and urged people to throw them out off the train if they met one.

Another post claimed that the Supreme Court is helping Rohingyas to settle in India, keeping the security of the country at stake. Many of the posts accused the refugee community of being "rape obsessed". Posts referred to Rohingya refugees through statements like "cockroaches that need to be trampled". A post requested the army to wipe out all illegal Rohingyas from Bangladesh and save borders.

One post contained a photo in which a little girl sitting among a number of 'diyas' holding a bottle of oil. The post claimed that she was a Rohingya and was looting oil from the diya. Rohingyas will loot them all in future, including the Ram Temple, the post went on to say.

The PIL submitted that such dehumanising language and warnings of threat could end up in mass violence and genocide. It said that the viewership of the posts is important to contextualise since they are viewed by millions. These posts are calling for violence against Muslims and their extermination from the planet.

Further, the PIL had listed videos, including some aired by TV channels. One of the videos was featured by Zee News, which shows a press briefing by the Uttar Pradesh anti-terrorism squad in July 2021 in a human trafficking case. The case allegedly included Rohingya refugees, and in the video, there were comments like "shoot them" and "throw them out of India". Another April 18, 2022, video by the same channel asked if Rohingya Muslims are behind the 2020 Delhi riots. The comment section called the refugees "killers" and "devils". A comment suggested cutting Rohingyas' rations and punishing their family members. Another suggested provoking them continuously so they make some mistakes" as the state "can't directly kill them", Newslaundry quotes.

Another news channel, Sudarshan News' video, came up with its reporter suggesting that Rohingyas are enemies of the nation who live in India with plans to destroy it. The reporter can also be heard saying that the Hindu community's patience is what allows Muslims to live in India, or they would have been forced to pushed to Pakistan. The video gathered more than 3.9 million views.

Another video featured a BJP member calling for Rohingya refugees to be shot dead since they are killing and eating Hindus.

The PIL stated before the Delhi High Court that Facebook's algorithm encourages violence and hate speech against minorities. It demanded that the platform enforce community standards on hate speech in the country, disable or suspend accounts listed in the plea, and appoint trained human moderators to screen online content. Facebook must deploy content moderation to Hindi and Indian language content as it does to English, the PIL demanded.

Facebook has submitted before the court that it would set a dangerous precedent if a social media company had to change its algorithm.

However, the high court reserved orders in the PIL saying passing orders may grant "pre-publication censorship power" to the government which might be dangerous for freedom of speech, Newslaundry reported.

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TAGS:hate speechDelhi High CourtRohingyasIndia news
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