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5 November, 2019 00:00 00 AM
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FB widely used for anti-Muslim hate speech in Assam

Time, New York

Hate speech targeted at minorities in the northeastern Indian state of Assam is spreading almost unabated through Facebook at the same time as the Indian government is stripping nearly 2 million people there of citizenship, according to a new report released last Tuesday. Posts targeting religious and ethnic minorities in Assam have been seen more than 5.4 million times, according to the global online advocacy group Avaaz, calling into question the success of the approach taken by Facebook since it was used to spread hate speech during the 2017 Rohingya genocide.

“I’m not sure what lessons Facebook has learned from the Rohingya crisis,” Alaphia Zoyab, a senior campaigner at Avaaz who led the team that wrote the report, tells TIME. “If they’re waiting for actual violence, that’s too late. They need to heed the warnings now.” In August this year, the Indian government published its final list of citizens of Assam, leaving 1.9 million people off. The ruling Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) sold the exercise as a means of rooting out illegal immigrants from bordering Bangladesh. But rights groups said it risked making millions stateless and inflaming Hindu-Muslim tensions in the region.

The situation in Assam has drawn comparisons to the Buddhist extremist campaign against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar which peaked in 2017, forcing more than 700,000 to flee their homes. In Hindu-majority India, Muslims have faced a surge in attacks since the BJP took power. In Assam, some 1.9 million people, many believed to be from the Bengali-speaking minority, are threatened with statelessness as a result

of government measures aimed at removing “infiltrators” from the country. “We are very worried about something like the Rohingya crisis playing out again,” Human Rights Watch told TIME in August.

Bengali Muslims in particular seem to be the targets of hate speech on Facebook, according to Avaaz, which found posts on the site calling them “parasites,” “rats” and “rapists,” and calling for them to be exterminated.

After the Rohingya genocide, Facebook was criticized for not employing any Burmese-speakers able to detect and remove hate speech. Facebook said in 2018 it had not “done enough” to prevent the genocide, and had since “invested heavily in people, technology and partners to address the abuse of Facebook in Myanmar.” But the Avaaz report, which focuses on hate speech in the Assamese language, calls into question whether Facebook’s systems to detect hate speech in languages other than English is working.

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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