Hate speech spiked on Facebook at the start of the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar last year, analysis revealed on Tuesday, with experts blaming the social media giant for creating “chaos” in the country.
Evidence of the spike emerged after Facebook 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, reports the Guardian.
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 August 24 and 27, 2017, when ARSA Rohingya militants attacked government forces, prompting the security forces to launch the “clearance operation” that sent 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 per cent 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 development comes as Facebook is currently facing the heat over the leak of personal and other data of some 50 million users to political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica.
Among Myanmar’s 53 million residents, less than 1 per cent had internet access in 2014.
By 2016, the country appeared to have more Facebook users than any other south Asian country.
Now, more than 14 million of its citizens use Facebook.