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Amnesty says Facebook must compensate Rohingyas for escalating hate speech

Amnesty says Facebook must compensate Rohingyas for escalating hate speech

Paris: According to a report released on Thursday by Amnesty International, Facebook should make amends for the hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas who were driven from their homes in Myanmar as part of a campaign made worse by the prevalence of online hate speech.

The Rohingyas, a predominantly Muslim minority group, were driven into neighbouring Bangladesh in 2017 after being targeted by Myanmar's military government and have since been living in vast refugee camps there.

The violence, according to victims' association and rights advocates, was exacerbated by Facebook's algorithms, which, they claim, play up extremist content that fosters harmful disinformation and hate speech.

"Many Rohingya tried to report anti-Rohingya content via Facebook's 'report' function" but to no avail, "allowing these hateful narratives to proliferate and reach unprecedented audiences in Myanmar," Amnesty said in its report.

It referred to the "Facebook Papers" allegations made public by a whistle-blower in October 2021, which showed that company executives were aware that the platform encouraged the spread of harmful content against ethnic minorities and other groups, AFP reported.

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 responsible business practices.

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.

"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 adds to the perception that this is a company wholly detached from the reality of its human rights impacts," Amnesty said.

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.

"It is imperative that states fulfil their obligation to protect human rights by introducing and enforcing effective legislation to rein in surveillance-based business models across the technology sector," it said.

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.

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