A US federal judge has ordered Facebook to release records of accounts linked to anti-Rohingya violence in Myanmar that was shut down by the social media giant, dismissing its argument to protect privacy as “ironic”. done.
A judge in Washington, DC criticized Facebook on Wednesday for failing to provide information to investigators seeking to prosecute the country for international crimes against the Muslim minority Rohingya, according to a copy of the ruling.
Facebook declined to release the data, saying it would violate US law preventing electronic communications services from disclosing users’ communications.
But the judge said the deleted post would not be brought under the purview of the law and that non-sharing of the content would “increase the tragedy that has happened to the Rohingya.”
“Facebook taking over the right to privacy is ironically rich. Entire sections in news sites are devoted to Facebook’s sordid history of privacy scandals,” he wrote.
A Facebook spokesperson said the company is reviewing the decision and has already made “voluntary, legitimate disclosures” to another UN body, the independent investigative mechanism for Myanmar.
In August 2017 more than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims fled Myanmar’s Rakhine province following a military crackdown that the refugees said were including mass killings and rape. Rights groups documented civilian killings and burning of villages.
Myanmar officials say they were battling an insurgency and deny systematic atrocities.
The Gambia is seeking the data as part of a case against Myanmar, it is going on at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, accusing Myanmar of violating the 1948 United Nations Convention on Genocide.
In 2018, UN human rights investigators said Facebook was instrumental in spreading hate speech that fueled the violence.
In Wednesday’s ruling, US Magistrate Judge Zia M Farooqui said Facebook had taken the first step by removing “content that promotes genocide” but was “stumbling” by not sharing it.
“A surgeon who excises a tumor does not just throw it in the dustbin. She wants a pathology report to identify the disease,” he said.
“Closing the requested content would eliminate the opportunity to understand how the genocide of the Rohingyas gave rise to propaganda and stalled a reckoning at the ICJ.”
Human rights lawyer Shannon Raj Singh on Twitter called the decision “important”.
In a Twitter post, she said it is “one of the most prominent examples of the relevance of social media to modern atrocity prevention and response.”
(Reporting by Poppy Elena Macpherson; Editing by Martin Petty)