Anti-Migrant Sentiment Fanned on Facebook in Malaysia | Voice of America

Anti-Migrant Sentiment Fanned on Facebook in Malaysia | Voice of America

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KUALA LUMPUR – As coronavirus infections surged in Malaysia this yr, a wave of hate speech and misinformation aimed toward Rohingya Muslim refugees from Myanmar started showing on Fb.   

Alarmed rights teams reported the fabric to Fb. 

However six months later, many posts focusing on the Rohingya in Malaysia stay on the platform, together with pages comparable to “Anti Rohingya Membership” and “Foreigners Mar Malaysia’s Picture,” though these two pages had been eliminated after Reuters flagged them to Fb lately.   

Feedback nonetheless on-line in a single non-public group with practically 100,000 members included “Hope all of them die, this cursed pig ethnic group.”   

Fb acknowledged in 2018 that its platform was used to incite violence towards the Rohingya in Myanmar, and final yr spent greater than $3.7 billion on security and safety on its platform. 

However the surge of anti-Rohingya remark in Malaysia exhibits how xenophobic speech nonetheless persists.   

“Assertions that Fb is uncommitted to addressing security and safety are inaccurate and don’t mirror the numerous funding we have made to handle dangerous content material on our platform,” an organization spokeswoman informed Reuters.   

Reuters discovered greater than three dozen pages and teams, together with accounts run by former and serving Malaysian safety officers, that featured discriminatory language about Rohingya refugees and undocumented migrants.   

Dozens of feedback inspired violence.   

Reuters discovered a few of the strongest feedback in closed non-public teams, which individuals need to ask to hitch. Such teams have been a hotbed for hate speech and misinformation in different elements of the world. 

Fb eliminated 12 of the 36 pages and teams flagged by Reuters, and several other posts. 5 different pages with anti-migrant content material seen by Reuters within the final month had been eliminated earlier than Reuters queries.   

“We don’t enable folks to publish hate speech or threats of violence on Fb and we’ll take away this content material as quickly as we grow to be conscious of it,” Fb mentioned. 

A number of the pages that stay on-line comprise feedback evaluating Rohingya to canines and parasites. Some disclosed the place Rohingya had been noticed and inspired authorities and the general public to take motion towards them. 

Widespread hate speech   

“This type of hate speech can result in bodily violence and persecution of an entire group. We noticed this in Myanmar,” mentioned John Quinley, senior human rights specialist at Fortify Rights, an impartial group targeted on Southeast Asia.   

“It could be irresponsible to not actively take down anti-refugee and anti-Rohingya Fb teams and pages.”   

Muslim-majority Malaysia was lengthy pleasant to the Rohingya, a minority fleeing persecution in largely Buddhist Myanmar, and greater than 100,000 Rohingya refugees dwell in Malaysia, though it would not formally acknowledge them as refugees. 

However sentiment turned in April, with the Rohingya being accused of spreading the coronavirus. Hate speech circulated broadly, together with on Fb – a platform utilized by practically 70% of Malaysia’s 32 million folks.   

Rights teams and refugees mentioned feedback on Fb helped escalate xenophobia in Malaysia.   

“Malaysians who’ve lived with Rohingya refugees for years have began calling the cops on us, some have misplaced jobs. We’re in worry on a regular basis,” mentioned Abu, a Rohingya refugee who didn’t wish to give his full identify fearing repercussions. 

One other refugee who declined to be recognized mentioned he deactivated his Fb account after his particulars had been posted and Malaysians messaged him telling him to return to Myanmar – from the place he fled 5 years in the past. 

“Fb has failed, they do not perceive how harmful such feedback may be,” he mentioned, referring to posts he had seen supporting motion in Myanmar towards Rohingya.   

‘Absent’ 

Rights teams mentioned the federal government of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin had did not do sufficient to curb xenophobia because it rounded up 1000’s of undocumented migrants and mentioned it could now not settle for Rohingya refugees.   

“The Malaysian authorities was utterly absent from any type of effort to attempt to curtail this wave of hate speech,” mentioned Human Rights Watch deputy Asia director Phil Robertson. 

Muhyiddin’s workplace didn’t reply to requests for remark.   

Reuters discovered 4 pages with hyperlinks to safety and enforcement businesses voicing anti-immigrant sentiment. 

“Allow us to not endure the most cancers of this ethnic (group),” directors of a gaggle referred to as “Buddies of Immigration” posted. The group says it’s run by present and former immigration officers. 

That publish from April was eliminated this month after Reuters queries to Fb. 

The immigration division didn’t reply to Reuters queries. The communications and residential ministries additionally didn’t reply to queries on hate speech in social media.   

Among the many earliest posts to attract feedback calling for Rohingya to be shot was one from the Malaysian Armed Forces Headquarters asking the general public to be its “ears and eyes” and report undocumented migrants. A army spokesman confirmed the authenticity of the web page.   

One other publish that was shared greater than 26,000 instances was from a web page calling itself the Navy Royal Intelligence Corps that mentioned undocumented migrants “will convey issues to all of us.”   

Reuters was unable to contact the administrator of the web page. The army mentioned it had nothing to do with the web page and it was run by a former member of the intelligence unit.   

Fb eliminated each posts after Reuters queries. The Intelligence Corps web page was additionally taken down. 

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