Facebook apologizes for role in Sri Lankan anti-Muslim violence

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 Photo: Kon Karampelas/unsplash

Facebook on Tuesday apologised for its role in the anti-Muslim riots in Sri Lanka in 2018 after an investigation found its role in instigating the violence. The company released a summary of the findings, along with other independent assessments of the service’s impact on human rights in Indonesia and Cambodia. 

“We deplore this misuse of our platform,” the company said for the hate speech and rumours spread on the platform may have led to violence against Muslims.

In 2018, a viral video falsely purporting to show a Muslim restaurateur admitting to mixing “sterilization pills” into the food of Sinhala-Buddhist men contributed to the unrest. This was one reason why the Sri Lankan government banned Facebook in March.

Facebook’s role was widely criticised after the violence. “Kill all Muslims, do not spare even an infant, they are dogs,” a Facebook status, white Sinhalese text against a fuchsia background, screamed on 7 March 2018- The guardian reported.

The report on Sri Lanka details Facebook’s failure to respond to almost a decade of warnings about misuse of its platform from groups within the country.

Viral misinformation on the messaging service has already stoked violence and deaths in India. The company’s inability to read encrypted messages makes it difficult to spot potentially dangerous activity. 

A 2018 assessment of its operations in Myanmar found it partly to blame for violence in that country. One response was to hire activist Miranda Sissons as the first Facebook director of human rights, last year. 

According to Sissons, Facebook has begun to conduct more country-by-country reviews of its performance on human rights and will begin releasing reports regularly.

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