Facebook is an engine of anti-Muslim hate the world over


“You have, though, repeatedly met with Modi — the world leader, incidentally, who has the highest number of Facebook followers! You even introduced your parents to him. I wonder: Will you be introducing your parents to any of the Indian Muslims who have had their WhatsApp accounts deactivated by Facebook in the wake of the Modi government’s lockdown in Kashmir?” PHOTO/Hindustan Times

Dear Mark Zuckerberg,

What happened to you?

Back in December 2015, you spoke out loudly and proudly against anti-Muslim hatred. “I want to add my voice in support of Muslims in our community and around the world,” you wrote in a post on Facebook, two days after then Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump announced his plan for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the country. “After the Paris attacks and hate this week,” you added, “I can only imagine the fear Muslims feel that they will be persecuted for the actions of others.”

The headline in the New York Times? “Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook Reassures Muslim Users.”

Yet here we are in December 2019. Four years later, you and Facebook have gone from reassuring Muslims to amplifying hate and bigotry against us. You have allowed what the actor Sacha Baron Cohen recently described as “the greatest propaganda machine in history” to be used to target and persecute some of the most vulnerable Muslim communities on Earth.

For starters, Mark, how does it feel to be complicit in an actual genocide?

I’m talking of course about the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. In March 2018, the chairman of the U.N. Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, Marzuki Darusman, told reporters that social media companies like yours had played a “determining role” in the violence, having “substantively contributed to the level of acrimony and dissension and conflict.”

“Everything is done through Facebook in Myanmar,” added Yanghee Lee, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Myanmar. “I’m afraid that Facebook has now turned into a beast, and not what it originally intended.

You know all this, Mark. Your company has, basically, admitted to it. In November 2018, your own product policy manager, Alex Warofka, acknowledged that you and your colleagues at Facebook had not done enough “to help prevent our platform from being used to foment division and incite offline violence” in Myanmar.

“Facebook has a lot of work to do. The company should be thinking about reparations for Rohingya and other initiatives to end and remedy the harms.”

And what have you done since? Warokfa claims Facebook has “improved proactive detection of hate speech in Myanmar.” Yet Matthew Smith, the founder of Fortify Rights, a human rights nonprofit focused on Myanmar, disagrees: “Facebook has a lot of work to do,” he told me. Yes, your company has appointed more than 100 new content reviewers for Myanmar, but there are more than 20 million Facebook accounts in the country and, as Smith argued, “efforts to date are not enough to tackle the misuse of the platform.”

“It’s not clear that the senior leadership fully understands the gravity of the situation,” he said. “The company should be thinking about reparations for Rohingya and other initiatives to end and remedy the harms.”

How about India’s Muslim minority communities? Does their fate keep you up at night, Mark? If not, why not? In October, a report by the nonprofit activist network Avaaz accused Facebook of having become a “megaphone for hate” against Muslims in the northeastern Indian state of Assam — where nearly two million people, many of them Muslims, have just been stripped of citizenship by the far-right Hindu nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Another report, by the South Asian human rights group Equality Labs, found “Islamophobic content was the biggest source of hate speech on Facebook in India, accounting for 37 percent of the content,” as Vice News noted in June.

Z Communications for more

Comments are closed.