Social media mogul Jack Dorsey gives new meaning to the phrase 'tone deaf' by going to Myanmar and not even mentioning the Rohingya.
Myanmar’s systematic effort to exterminate and eradicate 1.3 million Rohingya Muslims have been described by UN investigators as a genocide ignited by social media and in particular Facebook.
“The role of social media is significant,” UN investigators wrote in a report. “Facebook has been a useful instrument for those seeking to spread hate, in a context where for most users Facebook is the Internet.”
While Twitter is not Facebook, its reach is growing in Myanmar, and, like its social media cousin, nefarious and hateful groups and individuals are using Twitter to ignite violence against marginalised minorities everywhere, particularly in the Global South.
With that in mind, how on earth does one square away a series of tweets posted by Jack Dorsey, the founder of Twitter?
“Myanmar is an absolutely beautiful country. The people are full of joy and the food is amazing,” Dorsey posted on Saturday.
In other words, in 280 characters or less, the founder and CEO of Twitter promoted Myanmar as a tourist destination while simultaneously ignoring, and at worst, whitewashing, an ongoing genocide.
“The highlight of my trip was serving monks and nuns food, and donating sandals and umbrellas. This group of young nuns in Mandalay and their chanting was breathtaking and chilling,” tweeted Dorsey also on Saturday.
To mention Myanmar’s monks without noting how the country’s most senior and respected Buddhist leaders have not openly denied the genocide taking place against the Rohingya, but also have publicly called for their destruction defies belief.
Wirathu, who describes himself as the “Burmese Bin Laden,” and leads a monastery that is home to more than 2,500 of Myanmar’s monks, continues to describe the Rohingya as a dangerous, persistent threat while comparing them to “animals who eat with their asses.”
Moreover, to mention Myanmar’s nuns but to say nothing about how Myanmar security forces have also targeted the country’s Christian minority, alongside Naga, Kachin, Chin, Karenni, Lahu, and Karen minorities is too vulgar for words.
The omission from the Twitter chief is mind-boggling. The United Nations, the US Holocaust Museum, the Public International Law & Policy Group, and dozens of governments have affirmed Myanmar’s genocide against the Rohingya.
As such, it’s impossible to believe Dorsey was unaware of Myanmar’s ongoing crimes against humanity before or during his visit, and it’s even more unlikely he’s completely unaware of the role social media has played in fermenting violence there and against persecuted minorities around the globe.
Earlier this year, Dorsey tweeted, “We’re committing Twitter to help increase the collective health, and civility of public conversation, and to hold ourselves publicly accountable towards progress.”
It’s impossible to calibrate his commitment to increasing “collective health, and civility in public conversation” while at the same time holding his platform to being “publicly accountable towards progress” with his intentional or unwitting neglect of the genocide in Myanmar.
I mean, one must ask whether or not Dorsey’s tweets violate Twitter’s rules given his platform has suspended accounts for user indiscretions that are far more benign than potentially whitewashing an ongoing genocide.
The keyword here is “ongoing” as Rohingya Muslims continue to flee their homes, embarking on dangerous boat voyages to join the more than 700,000 Rohingya refugees along the Bangladesh border.
For instance, last week Myanmar security forces seized a boat carrying 106 fleeing Rohingya, one that was carrying dozens of women and children, and then terrorised the remaining residents of the camp they had fled from, killing one and injuring four others.
Further, Rohingya activists are in the midst of pleading with the international community to put in place a repatriation deal that guarantees the Rohingya security and full citizenship rights, an effort that can easily be sabotaged by the happy-go-lucky and careless vacation PR put out by the CEO of one of the world’s most influential social media platforms.
When the world sees Dorsey tweeting about meditating in Myanmar while enjoying the country’s natural beauty, cuisine, and French colonial designed boulevards, some might be duped into thinking, “What genocide?”
Ultimately, at the same time, Rohingya activists and the wider international community are trying to exact punishment on the Myanmar government and its leaders by expanding economic sanctions, Twitter’s CEO is encouraging foreign investment in the form of promoting the country as a vibrant and appealing travel destination.
To undo the damage Dorsey has done, he should tweet an apology for his callous indifference to the plight of 1.3 million Rohingya Muslims, and then suspend his account for the following 72 hours.
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