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Pearl Narang

Pearl Narang is a final year law student of B.B.A.LL.B (Hons.) at Chandigarh University, Mohali and is currently interning as a Trainee in Business World Legal Community. She is also pursuing a diploma in Contract Drafting, Negotiation and Dispute Resolution. She is passionate about both law and writing.

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Facebook in legal trouble over Rohingya genocide case in Myanmar

Facebook is in a legal battle with The Gambia. The controversy revolves around handing over of company documents that could help in an international investigation of a genocide in Myanmar.

The troubles for Facebook seem never-ending. This time the issue is genocide. The role of the  social media giant in the Rohingya genocide is well established. The West African country, The Gambia has filed a case in federal court in Washington and argued that the privacy protections cited by Facebook for its refusal to turn over the documents should not apply to the Myanmar’s government. This dispute has stemmed from charges the West African country filed in the International Court of Justice. The charges accuse Myanmar of perpetrating genocide against its Muslim minority—the Rohingya.

It has been a long-running public debate about how Facebook and other social media platforms do not do enough to prevent bad actors from using their platforms to cause harm. In June, The Gambia wanted to subpoena documents from Facebook. They asked for the same from the judge. The documents show how top officials in Myanmar used the platform to incite violence, including any records from internal company investigations. Facebook’s argument has primarily been about data privacy. In its defense, Facebook said that it couldn’t provide the documents citing federal laws that protect privacy and free-speech rights of internet users.

Myanmar military personnel posed as fans of pop stars and national heroes to post messages of hatred across Facebook. According to former military officials, researchers and civilian officials in the country, Myanmar military personnel used the posts as a tool for ethnic cleansing. The military exploited Facebook’s wide reach in Myanmar, where it has a huge user base.

The company wrote in its filing, “Granting The Gambia’s application would result in a subpoena with which Facebook could not lawfully comply.” The Gambia responded by saying that the law cited by Facebook is not intended to protect foreign government employees like the officials in Myanmar. 

A Facebook spokesperson said, “the company has been working with an investigative body established by the United Nations to lawfully provide data it preserved for international proceedings involving Myanmar”

Back in 2018, a Facebook commissioned report revealed that the platform was used to perpetrate genocide against the Rohingya minority. As a result of the report, Facebook banned 20 organizations and individuals in Myanmar, including one military commander.

However,  local human rights activists and think tanks in Myanmar had foreseen the international repercussions of Facebook’s decision.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house


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