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Facebook Blocks Reports of Rohingya Ethnic Cleansing

RAKHINE – Activists and civil rights advocates have accused Facebook of blocking their posts documenting the persecution and ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya Muslims by Burmese government, a report from The Daily Beast said.

“As I am a person who writes mostly about Rohingya who are under ethnic cleansing of Myanmar, I have been closely monitored by the government,” a Rohingya man living in Burma, who asked to be identified only as Rahim for safety reasons, told The Daily Beast in a text sent over WhatsApp on Monday, September 18.

“Therefore I fear using my real name and picture on Facebook.”

Nearly 410,000 members of the Rohingya Muslim minority have fled from western Rakhine state to Bangladesh to escape a military offensive that the United Nations has branded a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.

More than 1,000 people may already have been killed in Burma, mostly minority Rohingya Muslims, a senior United Nations representative told AFP last week.

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Rohingya people trying to use social media to share information about the attacks on them confirmed that they have had their posts removed and their accounts shut down from Facebook.

Mohammad Anwar, a Kuala Lumpur-based Rohingya activist and journalist with the site, added that Facebook has repeatedly deleted his posts about violence in Rakhine State, and has threatened to disable his account.

He shared screenshots with The Daily Beast of posts that Facebook removed.

One screenshot shows a post from Anwar about military activity in Burma’s Rakhine State, where most of the country’s Rohingya people live.

The post, which Anwar published on Aug. 28, noted that Burmese military helicopters were flying over Rohingya villages in the Maungdaw District of Rakhine State.

“We removed the post below because it doesn’t follow the Facebook Community Standards,” read a message from Facebook over the post, which alerted him it had been deleted.

In another post, Anwar detailed military atrocities.

“#Rohingya homes in the downtown of #Maungdaw are still being set ablaze by the #Myanmar military & #Rakhine extremists,” he wrote.

The post was removed. Facebook later temporarily froze his account and threatened to permanently disable it.

“I have deactivated my account in frustration,” Anwar told The Daily Beast.

Laura Haigh, Amnesty International’s Burma researcher, believes there is a targeted campaign in Burma to report Rohingya accounts to Facebook and get them shut down.

A Facebook representative denied the accusation, promising to look into the situation.

“We want Facebook to be a place where people can share responsibly, and we work hard to strike the right balance between enabling expression while providing a safe and respectful experience,” said Facebook spokesperson Ruchika Budhraja in a statement.

“That’s why we have Community Standards, which outline what type of sharing is allowed on Facebook and what type of content may be reported to us and removed. Anyone can report content to us if they think it violates our standards. In response to the situation in Myanmar, we are carefully reviewing content against our Community Standards.”