A judge in the United States has ordered Facebook to release records of now-closed accounts connected to anti-Rohingya violence in Myanmar, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The judge in Washington, DC, criticised Facebook for failing to hand over information to investigators seeking to prosecute the country for international crimes against the Muslim minority Rohingya, the newspaper said.
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Facebook had refused to release the data, saying it would violate a US law that bars electronic communication services from disclosing users’ communications.
But the judge said the posts, which were deleted, would not be covered under the law, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The Reuters news agency could not immediately access details of the ruling, and Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Momentous decision on Facebook’s obligation to disclose information relevant to the #Myanmar genocide case brought by #TheGambia at the #ICJ, one of the foremost examples of the relevance of social media to modern atrocity prevention & response: (1/4)
— Shannon Raj Singh (@ShannonRSingh) September 23, 2021
The Gambia is seeking the records as part of a case against Myanmar at the International Court of Justice in the Hague, accusing Myanmar of violating the 1948 United Nations Convention on Genocide.
Myanmar authorities say they were battling an armed uprising and deny carrying out systematic atrocities.
More than 730,000 predominantly Muslim Rohingya fled Myanmar’s western Rakhine state in August 2017 after a military crackdown that refugees said included mass killings and rape.
Rights groups documented killings of civilians and the burning of villages.
Shannon Raj Singh, human rights counsel at Twitter, called the decision “momentous”.
In a post on Twitter, she said it was “one of the foremost examples of the relevance of social media to modern atrocity prevention & response”.
Facebook has come under fire in Myanmar over the past 10 years – during which the Rohingya have been subjected to successive waves of violence – for the volume of hate speech directed against the community. Investigators from the UN say the platform played a key role in spreading hate speech that fuelled the crackdown in 2017.