Facebook's Role in Myanmar Violence
September 24, 2021
The Wall Street Journal reported this week that Facebook has been ordered by a federal judge to release records of now-closed accounts connected to anti-Rohingya violence in Myanmar. The judge was critical of Facebook for refusing to turn over the data to investigators seeking to prosecute the country for international crimes against the Muslim minority Rohingya.
Facebook had previously refused to release the data, saying it would violate a US law that bars electronic communication services from disclosing users’ communication; however, the judge said the posts, which were deleted, were not covered under the law.
On November 11, 2019 The Gambia instituted proceedings against the Republic of the Union of Myanmar before the International Court of Justice, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, alleging violations of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide through “acts adopted, taken and condoned by the Government of Myanmar against members of the Rohingya group”. The Gambia states that it has made this claim known to Myanmar since September 2018, but that Myanmar has continued to deny any wrongdoing.
Marzuki Darusman, chairman of the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, said that social media “… substantively contributed to the level of acrimony and dissension and conflict, if you will, within the public. Hate speech is certainly, of course, a part of that. As far as the Myanmar situation is concerned, social media is Facebook, and Facebook is social media”.
How does this impact you?
Facebook is the most widely used social media platform in the world, so it would be a valuable tool to gain intelligence against bad actors who seek to plan and execute activities against individuals or groups. However, Facebook has stringent rules against data scraping - using automation to get data from Facebook without permission is a violation of their terms. Facebook offers researchers access to data via an API built for the academic community, which encompasses privacy-protected data in the public domain, like US public Facebook Pages, Posts and Hashtags in Posts, and will expand to include Groups and Events. However social media monitoring companies cannot currently crawl Facebook to collect OSINT data without violating Facebook TOU.
This illustrates that using a variety of global data sources is crucial to any intelligence team that needs to stay on top of an increasingly diverse internet threat landscape. More data coverage = less overlooked information. For security and intelligence teams operating on a global scale, the most effective way to gather information from global social data sources is to use OSINT tools that aggregate a wide range of data in one intuitive interface. APIs in particular deliver direct access to online networks, and allow organizations to integrate and leverage this data within their own systems and tooling.
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