New Zealand’s privacy commissioner hit out at Facebook on Monday, accusing the social media giant of enabling “genocide.”
“Facebook cannot be trusted. They are morally bankrupt pathological liars who enable genocide (Myanmar), facilitate foreign undermining of democratic institutions,” John Edwards, the commissioner, said in a series of since-deleted tweets.
“[They] allow the live streaming of suicides, rapes, and murders, continue to host and publish the mosque attack video, allow advertisers to target ‘Jew haters’ and other hateful market segments, and refuse to accept any responsibility for any content or harm,” Edwards continued.
He later explained in a follow-up post that he had deleted the tweets "because of the volume of toxic and misinformed traffic they prompted" and instead linked to an interview with Radio New Zealand on Monday where he reiterated his criticism of Facebook.
“It is a technology which is capable of causing great harm,” he said, slamming the company's recent statements of support as “disingenuous.”
“He [Zuckerberg] can’t actually tell us, or won’t tell us, how many suicides are live-streamed, how many murders, how many sexual assaults,” Edwards said. “In fact, I’ve asked Facebook exactly that last week, and they simply don’t have those figures or won’t give them to us.”
The commissioner’s comments came after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently said his company would not introduce a delay to its Facebook Live feature. The social media giant was criticized for its response to a mass shooting by a white supremacist targeting two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, last month, in which 50 people were killed and 50 more were wounded. The shooter uploaded a live stream of himself shooting worshippers to Facebook. Although the social media company removed the original video, other users kept re-uploading the footage.
Responding to Edwards, Facebook said in a statement that it was “deeply committed to strengthening our policies, improving our technology and working with experts to keep Facebook safe.”
Facebook has faced mounting international criticism for its response to various episodes of violence and hate speech around the world. The social media giant—along with Twitter, YouTube and other platforms—has struggled to address the growing prevalence of hate speech, disinformation and images and videos of violence shared by users.
In Myanmar, where the military has been accused of carrying out a genocide against the country’s Rohingya minority, a Muslim ethnic minority group, Facebook has been accused of being the primary platform for spreading government propaganda against the targeted group. An October report from The New York Times alleged that military personnel had “turned the social network into a tool for ethnic cleansing.”
Last week, New Zealand’s neighbor Australia passed strict legislation regarding “abhorrent violent material” shared on social media. Under the law, Facebook and other social media platform executives could be held liable if such content is not quickly removed. Such an offense is now punishable by jail time of up to three years and fines of up to $7.5 million, or 10 percent of the company’s turnover. Australia hopes its law will be implemented by other countries, and Edwards suggested that New Zealand follow the example.
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