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Meta owes reparations to Rohingya for violence in Myanmar, says Amnesty

Facebook owner failed to take action on anti-Rohingya hate speech despite repeated warnings, rights group says.

A prominent human rights group says Facebook owner Meta owes the Rohingya compensation for the platform’s role in fueling violence against Myanmar’s largely Muslim minority.

Amnesty International made a request for compensation on Thursday after accusing Meta of failing to act despite activists repeatedly warning the company about the implications of anti-Rohingya hate speech on its Facebook platform.

The group said Myanmar activists had raised concerns about the issue with Meta since 2012, some five years before the country’s military launched a campaign of mass murder and rape that forced more than 700,000 Rohingya to seek refuge in the neighboring Bangladesh.

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The brutal crackdown is now the subject of a genocide investigation at the International Court of Justice, while in March this year the US officially declared the military actions genocide.

“In the months and years leading up to the atrocities, Facebook algorithms intensified a storm of hate against the Rohingya that contributed to real-world violence,” said Agnes Callamard, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

“While the Myanmar military was committing crimes against humanity against the Rohingya, Meta was benefiting from the echo chamber of hate created by their spiraling hate algorithms,” he said in a statement. “Meta must be held accountable. The company now has a responsibility to make amends to all those who suffered the violent consequences of its reckless actions.”

There was no immediate comment from Meta.

United Nations investigators previously said Facebook had played a “determining role” in fueling violence against the Rohingya.

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Facebook has “substantially contributed to the level of acrimony, dissent and conflict, if you will, within the public,” Marzuki Darusman, chair of the United Nations Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, told reporters in 2018. “The Hate speech is certainly, of course, a part of that. When it comes to the Myanmar situation, social media is Facebook and Facebook is social media.”

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Rohingya refugees sued Meta in the US last December for $150 billion for failing to act on hate speech against the ethnic group.

At the time, a Meta spokesperson said the company was “shocked by the crimes committed against the Rohingya people in Myanmar” and said it had taken several steps to address hate speech on the platform. These include banning the Myanmar military from the platform and creating a dedicated team of Burmese speakers to moderate content on the platform.

Amnesty said these measures were not enough.

In addition to remedying the “terrible damage” Meta contributed to, Amnesty said the company must also make “fundamental changes” to its algorithms, “which actively amplify and distribute content that incites violence and discrimination” and deliver this content” directly to the people most likely to act on such incitement.

“Facebook must pay,” Amnesty quoted Showkutara, a 22-year-old Rohingya woman, as saying. “If they don’t, we will go to every court in the world. We will never give up our fight.”

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