Hate speech exploded on Facebook at the start of the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar last year, analysis has revealed, with experts blaming the social network for creating “chaos” in the country.
Evidence of the spike emerged after the platform was accused of playing a key role in the spread of hate speech in Myanmar at a time when 650,000 Rohingya refugees were forced to flee to Bangladesh following persecution.
Digital researcher and analyst Raymond Serrato examined about 15,000 Facebook posts from supporters of the hardline nationalist Ma Ba Tha group. The earliest posts dated from June 2016 and spiked on 24 and 25 August 2017, when ARSA Rohingya militants attacked government forces, prompting the security forces to launch the “clearance operation” that sent hundreds of thousands of Rohingya pouring over the border.
Serrato’s analysis showed that activity within the anti-Rohingya group, which has 55,000 members, exploded with posts registering a 200% increase in interactions.
“Facebook definitely helped certain elements of society to determine the narrative of the conflict in Myanmar,” Serrato told the Guardian. “Although Facebook had been used in the past to spread hate speech and misinformation, it took on greater potency after the attacks.”
The revelations come to light as Facebook is struggling to respond to criticism over the leaking of users’ private data and concern about the spread of fake news and hate speech on the platform.