Facebook 'censors' posts documenting Rohingya ethnic cleansing

Facebook 'censors' posts documenting Rohingya ethnic cleansing
2 min read
19 September, 2017
Social media giant Facebook has been removing posts by Rohingya activists documenting the ongoing ethnic cleansing of the Muslim minority in Myanmar, activists claim.
More than 400,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar since a military crackdown. [Getty]

Social media giant Facebook has been removing posts by Rohingya activists documenting the ongoing ethnic cleansing of the Muslim minority in Myanmar, activists claim.

More than 410,000 Rohingya Muslims have been driven from their homes in Buddhist-majority Myanmar since late August, when the army began a crackdown in Rakhine State.

Myanmar's military alleges that Rohingya militants attacked army bases in the state, but has come under widespread criticism for targeting civilians.

Mohammad Anwar, a Kuala Lumpur-based Rohingya activist and journalist, told The Daily Beast that Facebook has been removing his posts detailing military atrocities against the Rohingya, and threatened to close down his account.

One post from August, which showed military helicopters flying over Rohingya villages in Rakhine State, was removed "because it doesn't follow the Facebook Community Standards," a message from Facebook read over the post, which had been deleted.

The same day, Anwar posted about members of Myanmar's military burning down a Rohingya village in the Maungdaw District, which was also promptly removed for violating "community standards", Anwar told The Daily Beast.

Facebook temporarily froze his account and threatened to disable it, prompting Anwar to deactivate his page out of frustration.

'Targeted campaign'

Another Rohingya activist living in Myanmar said that Facebook has repeatedly deleted accounts which used a Rohingya pen name, forcing him to set up a page with a Buddhist name identifying as Burmese.

Facebook also deleted individual posts about Rohingya refugees, including poems describing the trauma of fleeing military forces.

"We removed this content because it doesn't follow the Facebook Community Standards," read a message from Facebook over the poem.

Another prominent Europe-based Rohingya activist Nay San Lwin told The Daily Beast that he fears Facebook has staff who are "biased against the Rohingya people".

Lwin says he routinely receives threats and abusive anti-Rohingya messages on the social media platform.

Laura Haigh, Amnesty International's Myanmar researcher, told The Daily Beast that "there appears to be a targeted campaign" to report Rohingya accounts in order to shut them down.

Facebook responded to the allegations by saying: "we work hard to strike the right balance between enabling expression while providing a safe and respectful experience", The Daily Beast reported.

"Anyone can report content to us if they think it violates our standards. In response to the situation in Myanmar, we are carefully reviewing content against our Community Standards."