Washington (March 14, 2019) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Ranking Member of the East Asia Subcommittee, released the following statement after Facebook provided responses to questions posed by Senator Markey following the company’s decision to ban four ethnic armed groups who have been involved in peace talks with the Burmese government from its platform. In a February 22 letter, Senator Markey asked Facebook to clarify how it came to its decision, noting concerns raised by human rights groups in Burma that banning these organizations, while not holding the institution of the Burmese military accountable, would undermine the country’s national reconciliation efforts. The United Nations and other organizations have noted that hate speech on Facebook’s platform played a “determining role” in instigating the violence against the Rohingya community in 2017.


“By attempting to make amends for previously allowing violence-inspiring hate speech, Facebook multiplied its errors and risks damaging fragile efforts at national reconciliation by excluding four ethnic armed groups from the platform,” said Senator Markey. “Burma is in the midst of one of the world’s longest civil wars, and while these groups historically have been involved in violent acts, they must be part of any path to reconciliation for the people of Burma to achieve a peaceful future.


“Facebook instituted this ban without sufficient discussion with communities on the ground, and despite its response to me, I still have serious concerns about the company’s efforts to address online hate speech in Burma. Facebook has not fully clarified how it engaged with local human rights organizations prior to its decision, and what specific information it shared with all stakeholders. I strongly encourage Facebook to listen to the criticism leveled against its latest decision, and work more closely with local and international human rights organizations and members of Congress to address these concerns.”  


A copy of Facebook’s response to Senator Markey’s query can be found HERE.