Facebook has acknowledged and apologised for its part in the deadly 2018 communal attacks in Sri Lanka that led the government to impose a nationwide emergency in the island nation.
The social media mogul, Facebook released a report earlier this week, where it was confirmed with an investigation that the hate speech and rumours spread on the platform may have caused the violence against Muslims in the 2018 religious riots of Sri Lanka.
While referring to the Sri Lanka report, the company stated that they deplore such misuse of their platform and said that “we recognize, and apologize for, the very real human rights impacts that resulted.”
In response to the situation that had risen, Facebook aimed to draw attention towards the steps that it had taken to further prevent any such misuse. The report showcases that Zuckerberg’s firm had taken serious actions such as, including hiring content moderators with local language skills, inculcating technology that automatically detects signs of hate speech and stops the abusive content from reaching more people, and steering towards forming stronger ties with local civil society groups.
In 2018, Sri Lanka witnessed a series of religious riots where mobs of Sinhalese Buddhists thrashed Muslim residents and destroyed their places of worship, similarly, the mobs of Muslims attacked people belonging to the Sinhalese community and damaged their Buddhist temples.
The situation that lasted no less than 10 days and caused a few fatalities turned out to be so grave that the government of Sri Lanka had to impose a nationwide emergency and deploy the Army to assist the Police in the affected areas to curb the rising instances of religious violence.
The communal colour of the hatred behind the violence was reportedly due to a viral video on Facebook that falsely depicted a Muslim restaurateur admitting to mixing “sterilization pills” into the food of Sinhala-Buddhist men.
Facebook’s failure to detect and rapidly respond to the fake video formed a major role in inciting violence and causing unrest in the island nation.
The social networking giant’s grim record on human rights has not gone unnoticed by the world. Joshua Brustein writes that “as it(Facebook) expanded rapidly, it staffed local operations in far-off countries with skeleton crews or not at all, making it unresponsive to the specific forms of local manipulation, according to the reports. Facebook’s decision to design algorithms that encourage more engagement also made it vulnerable to disinformation and incitement to violence.”
While Facebook accepts and apologises for its role in Sri Lanka, it hasn’t been the first time that Facebook has apologised for its poor operation services in Asia.
In 2018, the firm had to offer an apology for the violence in Myanmar that was caused due to hate speeches amid the Rohingya crisis, where thousands of Rohingya Muslims were killed, raped and assaulted, villages were demolished forcing over 700,000 Rohingyas to flee to Bangladesh and other regions.
The New York Times called the violence “A Genocide Incited on Facebook, With Posts From Myanmar’s Military”
The increase in the intensity of the cases has put Facebook’s other products like Whatsapp under question since they have also been linked to spreading misinformation online leading to violence offline.