Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib denounce Facebook as complicit in anti-Muslim violence

Their condemnation comes after a new report found that Facebook has played a role in anti-Muslim violence in Germany, Sweden, New Zealand and the United States.

(RNS) — Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib are condemning Facebook after a report, released Wednesday (Oct. 21), documents how the social media company has allowed the spread of anti-Muslim hate and violence in the United States and across the world.

The report, “Complicit: The Human Cost of Facebook’s Disregard for Muslim Life,” finds that Facebook has played a role in anti-Muslim violence in Germany, Sweden, New Zealand and the United States.

The social media company has also enabled anti-Muslim governments and politicians in China, Hungary, India, Myanmar and Sri Lanka, according to the report by Muslim Advocates, a national civil rights organization, and the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism.

Omar, on Twitter, said the findings were devastating and urged people to rethink the roles of “these corporations.”

This is a devastating indictment of Facebook’s active role in driving anti-Muslim hate and violence around the world.

We need to massively rethink these corporations’ role in our society.

It’s time to break up Facebook.https://t.co/COa4BzXpof

— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) October 21, 2020

Facebook, according to the report, has ignored five years of warnings that event pages on its site were being used to promote violence.

The report calls out Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg for failing to make the social media platform a “welcoming home for Muslims,” when the community experienced a backlash after the 2015 Paris attacks.

The report linked to a 2015 Facebook post in which Zuckerberg addressed Muslims after the Paris attacks, saying “If you’re a Muslim in this community, as the leader of Facebook I want you to know that you are always welcome here and that we will fight to protect your rights and create a peaceful and safe environment for you.”

Since then, the report said, “anti-Muslim hate groups and hate speech run rampant on Facebook with anti-Muslim posts, ads, private groups, and other content.”

The report also mentioned that Facebook’s own civil rights audit found that “from the organization of events designed to intimidate members of the Muslim community at gathering places, to the prevalence of content demonizing Islam and Muslims, and the use of Facebook Live during the Christchurch massacre, civil rights advocates have expressed alarm that Muslims feel under siege on Facebook.”

The report highlights an analysis by ABC Religion & Ethics that found the U.S. and
Australia “lead in the number of active Facebook pages and groups dedicated to referring this dehumanizing (anti-Muslim) content.”

Facebook event pages have been used to coordinate anti-Muslim protests in the U.S., according to the report. For example, the report notes how two Russian Facebook pages in 2016 organized opposing rallies in front of the Islamic Da’wah Center of Houston.

The report also notes how Muslim public figures, including Omar and Tlaib, have been threatened and attacked on the platform. It mentioned how the congresswomen were targeted by an international fake news operation that spread anti-Muslim propaganda.

Facebook, the report said, also allowed President Donald Trump’s campaign to run false ads against the congresswomen.

Tlaib, on Twitter, said Facebook needed to take action “and no longer allow its platform to be used by hate groups to terrorize Muslims.”

#Facebook knows it has an anti-Muslim problem—and is ignoring it despite its own #civilrights audit categorizing anti-Muslim hate as a “long-standing problem.” It must finally take action and no longer allow its platform to be used by hate groups to terrorize Muslims. https://t.co/OdeoaMD7BI

— Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (@RepRashida) October 21, 2020

Livestreaming hate content has also been a problem, the report found.

In August 2020, the report noted, a group of anti-Muslim activists used Facebook to livestream a hate rally outside a Milwaukee mosque where a street preacher yelled threatening slurs while holding a sign that read “Halt Islam.”

The preacher posted conspiracies about Muslims on Facebook, shouting “wicked, perverted Islam” and asking Muslims if they had “anything ticking” on them, according to the report.

“Despite these clear violations of Facebook’s hate speech and live-streaming
policies, it took outside groups to alert the company before the content was removed,” the report read.