Monday, January 21, 2019 | ePaper

Don't use Facebook for spreading hatred and inciting violence

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The general election of Myanmar in 2020 may be a fertile ground for 'incitement to violence' where the powerful platform of the social media Facebook could be used to spread hate speech. The tech giant issued warning about it on Tuesday. For years, the Facebook has come under fire in Myanmar from rights groups for its slow response to abusive posts, with the Rohingya Muslims bearing the brunt of the invective. However, it has blacklisted several hard-line Buddhist monks, and after a UN probe called for the army chief and other top military brass to be prosecuted for genocide, the Facebook blocked them too.
The Facebook commissioned an assessment on its performance by California-based consultants Business for Social Responsibility (BSR), which carried out interviews between May and September 2018. The BSR agreed that the platform had been used by those 'seeking to incite violence and cause offline harm'. It also said Facebook's problems in Myanmar are far from over and the state will have to bear the ultimate responsibility.
We do agree on this point that it was Myanmar government's responsibility to stop spread hatred; especially when spreading of rumour and hate using the platform by a section of influential quarter including high-ups of civil and military bureaucracy had created an abnormal situation. Now it is feared that the Myanmar 2020 election is 'likely to be a flashpoint for hate speech, harassment, misinformation, incitement to violence, and other actions designed to undermine the political process'.
Over 1.2 million Rohingyas are now staying in Bangladesh being driven away by the Myanmar military where over 7 lakh came after massive crackdown in August 25 last year. It's an open secret that de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi -- who had won the 2015 vote ending decades of military rule and her administration which enjoys a power-sharing agreement with the military — hasn't shown any sincerity in ending the Rohingya crisis.
When Myanmar has been facing international pressure following brutal repression on Rohingya Muslim minorities; at that time it would not be wise for its rulers to let anyone making the country a fertile ground for spreading hate and inciting violence during the election. 

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