Facebook Stifles Rohingya Reports Of Ethnic Cleansing

Facebook has asked its moderators to remove the content “by or praising” the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army.

Facebook has come under fire for stifling voices reporting crimes against humanity in the ongoing crisis in Myanmar.

The backlash comes after the social media network labeled the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, ARSA, as a “dangerous organization,” and asked its moderators to remove the content “by or praising” the organization.

The international community of activists and human rights groups have widely criticized the decision as an act of censorship. According to the recent reports, Facebook has also been accused of suppressing the accounts of Rohingya activists as well as members of the Rohingya minority group.

Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi called ARSA a “terrorist organization” in August.

ARSA claims to fight for the rights of the minority Rohingya. The group first emerged in October 2016 after it attacked three police outposts in Maungdaw and Rathedaung districts, killing nine policemen.

Several activists from within and outside Myanmar told the Daily Beast that the posts from about violence in the Rakhine state have been removed from Facebook.

Related | Oil, Gas, Geopolitics Guide US Hand In Playing The Rohingya Crisis

Mohammad Anwar, a Kuala Lumpur-based journalist and activist, with Rohingya Blogger, shared several screenshots of the ongoing violence in Myanmar that were removed by the social media network. He also claimed Facebook threatened to disable his account.

One post that was removed showed Burmese military helicopters hovering over the villages in the Maungdaw District of the Rakhine state. Another post, also published on Aug. 28, showed members of the military burning down an area in the Maungdaw District.

Facebook has denied allegations it is censoring Rohingya accounts.

“In response to the situation in Myanmar, we are only removing graphic content when it is shared to celebrate the violence, versus raising awareness and condemning the action,” a Facebook spokeswoman, Ruchika Budhraja, said in a statement.

“We are carefully reviewing content against our Community Standards and, when alerted to errors, quickly resolving them and working to prevent them from happening again,” Budhraja added.

Laura Haigh, Amnesty International’s Burma researcher, told the Daily Beast that there appeared to be a targeted campaign to report Rohingya accounts to Facebook in a bid to shut them down.

Related | Rohingya: ‘Even a baby was not spared by the Myanmar army’

Mohammed Rafique, a Rohingya activist based in Ireland, was temporarily banned from Facebook on Aug.28 for posting “photos and videos of torture and killings in the Rohingya villages,” the Guardian reported.

Facebook claims that it takes down posts that pose a direct threat to the users, indicate self-harm, promote terrorist organizations, or organized hate groups.

But activists argue Facebook’s policy is not evenly applied.

Just a few weeks earlier, the social media network faced criticism after enabling anti-Semitic advertisements to reach “jew haters.” It has also been criticized for allowing Russian account holders to create Facebook events for “anti-refugee” rallies in the United States.

Top photo | Alishaan, a Rohingya Muslim man, walks towards a hospital carrying his sick mother Aishya Khatoon at Taiy Khali refugee camp, Bangladesh, Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017. More than 400,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh since Aug. 25. (AP/Dar Yasin)

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