Senator Markey Questions Facebook’s Efforts to Combat Hate Speech in Burma
Letter Asks CEO Mark Zuckerberg to explain the company’s recent decision to ban four organizations, as well as it overall strategy to counter hate speech
Washington (February 22, 2019) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Ranking Member of its East Asia Subcommittee, wrote to Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg asking him to fully explain the company’s decision to ban four ethnic armed groups – the Arakan Army, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) – from its platform.
While acknowledging the role these groups have had in Burma’s civil war, the Senator writes: “Banning the pages of these armed groups, which rely predominantly on Facebook to communicate with outside audiences, would cut off their external communications. It would prevent these groups from engaging with ethnic civil society, government negotiators, international observers (including the United States) facilitating the peace process, and international humanitarian groups accessing areas under their control, isolating them from any national reconciliation efforts.”
In his letter, the Senator also points out that designating these groups – and not the Burmese government and military, who have been implicated in numerous mass atrocities – raises questions about Facebook’s approach in determining which organizations are permitted to access the company’s platform. The Senator asks Facebook to explain the company’s policy regarding hate speech, whether the company works with civil society and Burmese translators, and if the company has a broader strategy to address the role of hate speech in other ethnic conflicts.
United Nations officials have noted that hate speech on Facebook’s platforms played a “determining role” in instigating violence against the Rohingya community in Burma in 2017, which lead to mass atrocities and the forced displacement of over 700,000 people. Even though the company has taken steps to identify and ban Burmese officials promoting hate speech, international and Burmese observers have raised questions about Facebook’s methodology, and the lack of coordination with Burmese civil society to properly address the challenge of hate speech.
A copy of Senator Markey’s letter can be found HERE.