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Myanmar: Meta must pay reparations to Rohingya people for role in ethnic cleansing

Cox's Bazar refugee camp in Bangladesh © Maung Sawyeddollah

Call comes on sixth anniversary of mass violence against Rohingya by Myanmar military

Rohingya refugee Maung Sawyeddollah makes impassioned appeal to Mark Zuckerberg - saying ‘Can’t you see your role in our suffering?’

‘It is high time Meta faced its responsibilities’ - Pat de Brún

Meta should immediately pay reparations to the Rohingya for the role that Facebook played in the ethnic cleansing of the persecuted minority group, Amnesty International said today, on the sixth anniversary of the Myanmar military’s brutal operation during which they raped Rohingya women and girls, burned down entire villages and killed thousands.

As Amnesty has previously shown, Facebook’s algorithms and Meta’s ruthless pursuit of profit created an echo chamber that helped foment hatred of the Rohingya people and contributed to the conditions which forced the ethnic group to flee Myanmar in large numbers.

Today, Amnesty and Al Jazeera have published new testimony from Rohingya refugee Maung Sawyeddollah, who was forced to flee his village in Myanmar when he was a teenager. He fled through torched villages and fields filled with dead bodies and now lives in the world’s biggest refugee camp, Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, alongside an estimated one million people. As a child, before anti-Rohingya hate took root with the help of Facebook, Maung Sawyeddollah and his mostly Muslim Rohingya friends played happily with the mostly Buddhist Rakhine children from the neighbouring village, but this changed dramatically when the military moved in. 

Maung Sawyeddollah saud: 

“I’d like to meet Mark Zuckerberg and his team. Maybe they’d like to come and spend a night or two in the refugee camp? I’d tell them, ‘Can’t you see your role in our suffering? We asked you, repeatedly, to try and help make things better for us … Yet you ignore our pleas. Tell me, do you feel anything for us? Is it only about the data, is it only about the dollars?”

Pat de Brún, Amnesty International’s Head of Tech Accountability, said:

“Six years have gone by since Meta contributed to the terrible atrocities perpetrated against the Rohingya people.

“Yet although this stands out as one of the most egregious examples of a social media company’s involvement in a human rights crisis, the Rohingya are still awaiting reparations from Meta.

“Our investigations have made it clear that Facebook’s dangerous algorithms, which are hard-wired to drive 'engagement’ and corporate profits at all costs, actively fanned the flames of hate and contributed to mass violence, as well as the forced displacement of over half the Rohingya population of Myanmar into neighbouring Bangladesh.

“It is high time Meta faced its responsibilities by paying reparations to the Rohingya and by fixing its business model to prevent this from happening again.”

Meta’s role in atrocities

Beginning in August 2017, the Myanmar security forces undertook a brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. They unlawfully killed thousands of Rohingya, including young children; raped and committed other sexual violence against Rohingya women and girls; tortured Rohingya men and boys in detention sites; and burned down hundreds of Rohingya villages. The violence pushed more than 700,000 Rohingya - more than half the Rohingya population living in northern Rakhine State at the beginning of the crisis - into neighbouring Bangladesh.   

In a report last year, Amnesty outlined Meta’s role in atrocities committed against the Rohingya people by the Myanmar military in 2017. It revealed that Facebook’s internal studies dating back to 2012 indicated that the company knew its algorithms could result in serious real-world harms, and in 2016 Meta’s own research clearly acknowledged that “our recommendation systems grow the problem” of extremism.


Meta has a responsibility under international human rights standards to provide an effective remedy to the Rohingya people, including making necessary changes to its business model which can ensure this never happens again. All companies have a responsibility to respect human rights wherever they operate in the world - as recognised by international business and human rights standards, including the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Today marks an important step in holding Big Tech to account for its human rights impacts, as key provisions of the landmark Digital Services Act come into force for major online platforms in the European Union. 

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