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US senators call on Facebook to address anti-Muslim bigotry

'Facebook has not taken the steps required to effectively address hate speech and violence targeting Muslims,' Senator Chris Coons and 14 others tell social media site
The letter, led by Senator Chris Coons, says that Facebook has not taken proper steps to enforce its "call to arms" policy.
The letter, led by Senator Chris Coons, says Facebook has not taken proper steps to enforce its "call to arms" policy (AFP/File photo)
By in
Washington

Democratic senators are calling on Facebook to "do more" to mitigate the spread of anti-Muslim bigotry, after the social media giant was criticised for failing to address attacks against the faith group on multiple occasions, including the aftermath of the Christchurch shootings.

In a letter sent to Facebook to CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Monday, a group of 15 Senators said the platform needed to immediately enforce its community standards to address anti-Muslim hate and ban the use of event pages for the purpose of "harassment, organizing, and violence" against the Muslim community.

The letter also said that Facebook had not taken proper steps to enforce its "call to arms" policy, a year-old rule created in large part due to pressure from Muslim advocacy groups, which since 2015 had flagged multiple instances where organisers of Facebook events had advocated for followers to bring weapons to mosques and other places of worship.

"We recognize that Facebook has announced efforts to address its role in the distribution of anti-Muslim content in some of these areas," the letter, signed by Senator Chris Coons, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and 12 others, said.

"Nevertheless, it is not clear that the company is meaningfully better positioned to prevent further human rights abuses and violence against Muslim minorities today."

An independent civil rights audit of the social media company released in July outlined that despite having policies that did not allow for hate speech against religious groups, incidents of hate speech continued to persist across Facebook.

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Muslim Advocates, a rights group that called for the audit two years ago, thanked the senators for writing the letter.

"Since 2015, Muslim Advocates had warned Facebook that the platform's event pages were being used by violent militias and white nationalists to organize armed rallies at mosques," the group's executive director Farhana Khera said on Monday.

"We need to know what Facebook plans to do to end the anti-Muslim hate and violence enabled by their platform - and end it now."

Facebook has been accused of providing a platform for the incitement of violence against Muslims across the world, including the Christchurch attacks, the violence against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, and violence against Muslims in India.

The senators wrote that reports have indicated "that the platform has also been used to support the internment of the Uyghurs in China and other human rights violations against this population, that Facebook and WhatsApp have been used to incite violence against Muslims in India, and that Facebook has been used to promote hate and violence in other areas around the world".

Reports surfaced in 2018 showing that top Myanmar military officials had been using the social media platform to incite "ethnic cleansing" against the Rohingya Muslim population. Facebook admitted in November 2018 that it failed to prevent its platform from being used to incite violence in Myanmar.

In 2019, the gunman who killed 51 Muslim worshippers in New Zealand had broadcasted his mass shooting on Facebook Live for 17 minutes before it was stopped by the platform.

"As members of Congress who are deeply disturbed by the proliferation of this hate speech on your platform, we urge you to do more," the senators' letter read.