UN official Marzuki Darusman probing possible genocide in Myanmar’s Rakhine state says social media spread hate speech as military and Buddhist mobs forced nearly 700,000 Rohingya Muslims from villages.

Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar are one of the most persecuted and discriminated against groups of the 21st century.
Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar are one of the most persecuted and discriminated against groups of the 21st century. (AFP Archive)

UN human rights experts investigating a possible genocide in Myanmar said on Monday that Facebook had played a role in spreading hate speech there.

Facebook had no immediate comment on the criticism, although in the past the company has said that it was working to remove hate speech in Myanmar and kick off people who shared such content consistently. 

More than 690,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar's Rakhine state into Bangladesh since rebel attacks sparked a military backlash last August. 

Many have provided harrowing testimonies of executions and rapes by Myanmar's military and Buddhist mobs.  

Aid agencies and medical charities estimate nearly 14,000 people deaths during the army's "clearance operation." 

The UN human rights chief said last week he strongly suspected acts of genocide had taken place. Myanmar's national security adviser demanded "clear evidence." 

Chair of the fact-finding mission on Myanmar Marzuki Darusman attends a press conference after addressing his report before the UN Human Rights Council on March 12, 2018 in Geneva.
Chair of the fact-finding mission on Myanmar Marzuki Darusman attends a press conference after addressing his report before the UN Human Rights Council on March 12, 2018 in Geneva. (AFP)

Marzuki Darusman, chairman of the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, told reporters that social media had played a "determining role" in Myanmar. 

"It has ... substantively contributed to the level of acrimony and dissension and conflict, if you will, within the public. Hate speech is certainly of course a part of that. As far as the Myanmar situation is concerned, social media is Facebook, and Facebook is social media," he said.

Facebook "turned into a beast"

UN Myanmar investigator Yanghee Lee said Facebook was a huge part of public, civil and private life, and the government used it to disseminate information to the public. 

"Everything is done through Facebook in Myanmar," she told reporters, adding that Facebook had helped the impoverished country but had also been used to spread hate speech. 

"It was used to convey public messages but we know that the ultra-nationalist Buddhists have their own Facebooks and are really inciting a lot of violence and a lot of hatred against the Rohingya or other ethnic minorities," she said. 

"I'm afraid that Facebook has now turned into a beast, and not what it originally intended."

The most prominent of Myanmar’s hard-line nationalist monks, Wirathu, emerged from a one-year preaching ban on Saturday and said his anti-Muslim rhetoric had nothing to do with violence in Rakhine state. 

Facebook suspends and sometimes removes anyone that "consistently shares content promoting hate", the company said last month in response to a question about Wirathu's account. 

Source: TRTWorld and agencies