An Interesting Decision

Updated: Oct 2, 2021

By Scott Morgan, exclusively for Vanguard Global & Defence Unlimited.

Who is accountable when it appears that a genocide is organized online? On 22 September 2021 a court in Washington, D.C. wrestled with that very question. By Scott Morgan, exclusively for Vanguard Global & Defence Unlimited.

We all have heard of the plight of the Rohingya an ethnic Muslim group that has has been targeted by the Military of Myanmar since a crackdown was launched in 2017. One cannot escape the imagery of these people attempting to find sanctuary in Bangladesh. It has been documented that over 730,000 people have been forced to flee their homes after they were destroyed.

One may ask how does Social Media fit into this unfolding crisis? In 2018 Facebook was found to be responsible by UN Human Rights investigators to have played a key role in spreading Hate Speech that fueled the violence.

A subsequent investigation by Reuters that same year documented at least 1,000 cases of Hate Speech on Facebook. For example the Rohingya and other Muslims were referred to as being dogs, maggots and rapists, suggestions that they be fed pigs as well urging that these people be shot or exterminated were also found.

The company did admit that it was” too slow to prevent misinformation and hate” in Myanmar.

Facebook then shut down these accounts and the problem appeared to be resolved. Or so they thought. That is until Gambia filed a complaint against Myanmar at the ICJ (International Court of Justice) regarding the atrocities that have been committed against the Rohingya.

The Social Media Giant was ordered to disclose the records of those accounts that were shut down in 2018. The Court felt that the argument presented by Facebook of protecting privacy was “Rich with Irony”. The Company felt that releasing the data would be a violation of US law as well.

But another interesting fact arose when Facebook released its reaction to the Court decision. It was revealed that the Company made “voluntary, lawful disclosures” to the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar. This is another UN mechanism that is investigating the atrocities that have been committed against the Rohingya. A question now begs to be asked, Why provide details to this body but resist a challenge in the US Courts?

Social Media has received its fair share of criticism over the recent years in the United States. Too often we have heard of companies shutting down the pages of those individuals who have committed heinous crimes and have had their pages taken down within hours of committing their crimes.

Justice can be fair but it is often slow. There are times when the laws themselves need to catch up with Technology.