Just when it seemed like Facebook's controversies might have peaked, the company now appears to be obstructing a genocide investigation, and it's using U.S. law to do it. From a report: The West African nation The Gambia is seeking to hold Myanmar accountable for charges of genocide against the Rohingya people, an ethnic and religious minority. In 2016 and 2017, Myanmar soldiers and their civilian proxies massacred Rohingya men, women and children, raped women and girls and razed villages, forcing more than 800,000 to flee into neighboring Bangladesh. Facebook's role in these atrocities isn't news. In 2018, Facebook acknowledged it was used to "foment division and incite offline violence" in Myanmar, where the social media platform is so ubiquitous it's often synonymous with the internet. An independent report commissioned by the company documented the same, as did independent fact-finders appointed by the U.N. In response, Facebook took down the account of the commander-in-chief of the Myanmar military, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, and other military officials and organizations. In 2018 alone it shut down numerous networks that sought to incite violence against Rohingya, removing 484 pages, 157 accounts, and 17 groups for "coordinated inauthentic behavior."
To its credit, Facebook preserved the data and content it took down, and the company committed to cleaning up its act. "We know we need to do more to ensure we are a force for good in Myanmar," a company representative said in an official statement in 2018. Now, two years later, the company is doing exactly the opposite. In June, The Gambia filed an application in U.S. federal court seeking information from Facebook that would help it hold Myanmar accountable at the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Specifically, The Gambia is seeking documents and communications from Myanmar military officials as well as information from hundreds of other pages and accounts that Facebook took down and preserved. The Gambia is also seeking documents related to Facebook's internal investigations into the matter as well as a deposition of a relevant Facebook executive. All of this information could help to prove Myanmar's genocidal intent. Back in May, The Gambia filed a similar application in U.S. court against Twitter. The case disappeared quickly because The Gambia pulled its application shortly after submitting it, presumably because Twitter agreed to cooperate. Not Facebook. Earlier this month, the company filed its opposition to The Gambia's application. Facebook said the request is "extraordinarily broad," as well as "unduly intrusive or burdensome."
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