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Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Members of US Congress demand Facebook take steps to 'eradicate' anti-Muslim bias

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A group of 30 Democratic members of Congress on Tuesday sent a letter to Facebook criticising the social media giant for allowing anti-Muslim sentiments to spread on its platform, and are demanding it takes concrete steps to “eradicate anti-Muslim bigotry” on its website.

Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, who led the effort, said while the social media company celebrates its success, the platform has been used to elevate hate against Muslims, in some cases leading to violence and death, such as in the Christchurch shootings in New Zealand as well as in Myanmar where Facebook was used to incite violence against Rohingya Muslims.

‘Thus far, Facebook has appeared to lack the will necessary to effectively address hate and violence targeting Muslims’

– Letter to Facebook from 30 members of Congress

“Facebook cannot celebrate the success of its platform while ignoring its role in elevating the dangerous, deadly content targeting Muslim people,” the congresswoman said in a statement.

The letter, signed by members of Congress including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Mark Pocan, and Pramila Jayapal, says that Facebook has been used by militias and extremist groups to organise events that incite violence.

“In many of these instances, pages, events and other content are reported to Facebook but face delayed response times or are ignored,” it said.

“The platform’s slow reaction to these warnings underscores a pattern of negligence in responding to or removing content that promotes violence against these vulnerable communities and has allowed anti-Muslim content to proliferate on Facebook in a dangerous manner.”

Inciting violence against Muslims

The letter issues a list of demands for Facebook, including creating a working group that addresses anti-Muslim bigotry and hate groups and committing to a third-party review of Facebook’s role in enabling “anti-Muslim violence, genocide and internment”.

It also calls on the company to train staff on civil rights issues and how to determine hate content towards Muslims.

“Thus far, Facebook has appeared to lack the will necessary to effectively address hate and violence targeting Muslims,” the letter said.

“We ask you now to prioritize the eradication of anti-Muslim content and organizing on the platform by immediately implementing the following measures.”

US senators call on Facebook to address anti-Muslim bigotry

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The use of Facebook to target, discriminate and incite violence towards Muslims has been documented in numerous parts of the world.

Reports surfaced in 2018 showing that top Myanmar military officials had been using the social media platform to incite “ethnic cleansing” against the Rohingya Muslim population. Facebook admitted in November 2018 that it failed to prevent its platform from being used to incite violence in Myanmar.

In 2019, the gunman who killed 51 Muslim worshippers in New Zealand had broadcasted his mass shooting on Facebook Live for 17 minutes before it was stopped by the platform.

In India, Facebook’s biggest market, the company has been accused of siding with the country’s ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, and preventing the removal of party members’ posts that have called for violence against the country’s Muslim population.

An independent civil rights audit of the social media company released in July outlined that despite having policies that did not allow for hate speech against religious groups, incidents of hate speech continued to persist across Facebook.

Last month, a group of US senators sent a letter also condemning Facebook for its enabling of anti-Muslim hate, and issued a list of questions for the social media giant.

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