Facebook Slammed For Past Myanmar Sins: Inciting Violence, Cultural Divisions

Prior to 2018, Facebook didn’t do enough to prevent its platform from being used to sow cultural divisions and incite offline violence.

That’s the conclusion of an independent assessment commissioned by Facebook itself, which focused specifically on the company’s presence in Myanmar.

“The report concludes that, prior to this year, we weren’t doing enough to help prevent our platform from being used to foment division and incite offline violence,” Alex Warofka, Product Policy Manager at Facebook, admits in a new blog post.

On behalf of Facebook, the assessment was completed by Business for Social Responsibility (BSR), which is an independent non-profit organization with expertise in human rights practices and policies.

With the report, Facebook appears to be fishing for recognition for owning up to past mistakes, while shifting attention to more recent efforts to clean up its platform.

“Over the course of this year, we have invested heavily in people, technology and partnerships to examine and address the abuse of Facebook in Myanmar,” Warofka said. “BSR’s report acknowledges that we are now taking the right corrective actions.”



BSR says it conducts its assessments in accordance with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, as well as its pledge as a member of the Global Network Initiative.

Among other recommendations, BSR suggests that Facebook adopt a standalone human rights policy, establish formalized governance structures to oversee the company’s human-rights strategy, and provide regular updates on progress made.

Warofka said Facebook is currently considering just such a policy, while hiring additional human-rights specialists to strengthen engagement with and solicit input from NGOs, academia, and international organizations.

More broadly, “Our policies regarding what is and is not allowed on our platform are developed with an eye toward international human-rights principles, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” Warofka noted.

This summer, Facebook removed 18 accounts, one Instagram account and 52 Facebook pages for fueling discord in Myanmar.

Together, the properties reached nearly 12 million people, by Facebook’s calculations.

Perhaps the most prominent figure to lose his Facebook privileges was senior general Min Aung Hlaing, commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The military’s Myawady television network was also banned from Facebook.

At the time, Facebook said the crackdown was guided by the U.N. Human Rights Council-authorized Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, and its report detailing serious human-rights abuses in the country.

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