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The Rohingya crisis in Myanmar: A Genocide Incited on Facebook



History has shown that hate speech often precedes the commission of serious human rights violations and atrocities. In some situations, online hate speech has had a significant impact in the offline world. One of the gravest cases of the past few years took place in Myanmar where inaction against incitement to violence on social media platforms, mainly Facebook, contributed to the persecution of the Rohingya Muslim community. These human rights violations have been widely condemned by the global community.

While the government in Myanmar failed to put an end to hate speech offline, ungoverned online hate illuminated Facebook’s failure to address the systematic anti-Rohingya campaign of hatred orchestrated by the Myanmar military. UN human rights experts investigating a possible genocide in Myanmar subsequently said that Facebook had played a “determining” role in spreading hate speech there.

Today, the crisis in Myanmar stands out as a case study of groups harnessing social media to incite violence and of the failure of social media platforms to take action. What role did online hate speech and misinformation play in the resurgence of oppression and human rights violations? What are the lessons learned from this crisis for all stakeholders (Big Tech, states, civil society) to prevent this from happening again?

The third session of the “Decoding Hate Speech” series will focus on the weaponization of social media in Myanmar and address whether this case marks a turning point in Big Tech’s realization that they must consider the human rights impact of their platforms.

Moderator: Kyle Matthews, Executive Director of the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (MIGS)

Senator Marielou McPhedran
Grant Shubin, Legal Director of the Global Justice Center
Myat Thu, independent expert based in Myanmar

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