WASHINGTON, DC — On Wednesday, Sheera Frenkel of the New York Times reported that WhatsApp groups with names like “Death to the Arabs” were being used to foment mob violence against Palestinians. Last fall, Muslim Advocates and the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism released a report documenting the ways that Facebook and its subsidiary WhatsApp have been used to enable this same kind of mob violence against Muslims around the world. The following is a statement from Muslim Advocates Senior Policy Counsel Madihha Ahussain:
“Seven months ago, we handed Facebook a 40-page report detailing how their platforms, including WhatsApp, were being used to incite hate and mob violence against Muslims all around the world. New reporting about mob violence against Palestinians organized via WhatsApp shows that Facebook has willfully ignored our warning.
According to the New York Times, violent mobs used WhatsApp to plan attacks, choose Arab businesses to target and share instructions on how to make bombs and Molotov cocktails. This violence and hate is shocking but it is not a new phenomenon. As our report documented, Facebook and WhatsApp have similarly been used to target Muslims in India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and other countries.
Anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian hate existed long before Facebook and WhatsApp were created but these social media platforms have accelerated this hate to enable real-word violence in never-before-seen ways. Facebook’s failure to prevent violence against Palestinians after being given ample warning about how its platform is used to target vulnerable groups shows that the company’s policies against hate and violence have failed—as they have failed before. Ex post facto action and more empty promises are not enough. Facebook needs a permanent, accountable, internal force that understands hate targeting Muslims, Arabs and other vulnerable communities to ensure that the company’s platforms are never again used to enable violence like this. That’s why we’re reiterating our call for the company to create a senior staff working group tasked with stopping hate on the platform and for Facebook to actually enforce their community standards, without regard to political or economic implications, so that their platforms are not being used to advocate or call for violence.”
Muslim Advocates is a national civil rights organization working in the courts, in the halls of power and in communities to halt bigotry in its tracks. We ensure that American Muslims have a seat at the table with expert representation so that all Americans may live free from hate and discrimination.