BNP-Jamaat used Facebook to incite violence, instigate arson

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Published on March 23, 2024
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Anti-war crimes campaigners, human rights activists and several journalists who worked with international outlets have pointed out “egregious violations” and “a glaring failure” in maintaining transparency and fairness from Facebook authorities to stop the spread of hate speech.

They also described how the political dynamics in Bangladesh are completely different from many other countries with one political alliance—BNP and Jamaat—even using social media to incite violence and unchecked instigation for arson attacks for decades in Bangladesh, violating its own guidelines.

On the other hand, human rights activists have pulled up one authorised fact-checker over what they call a biassed narrative designed to stoke communal violence and run hatred by Jamaat, a principal partner for BNP.

They also pointed out that those appointed on behalf of third parties authorised by Facebook as independent fact-checkers to flag off disinformation, have been rather spreading disinformation and partisan views, trampling the line of objectivity.

In his write-up, the very fact-checker ruled out a matter of fact that BNP lacks commitment to secular values, ignoring the strong nexus between BNP and Jamaat since the days of Tarique’s father General Ziaur Rahman and now carried forward by Tarique, according to civil society members.

Qadaruddin Shishir who is Bangladesh fact-check editor at AFP has authored the article himself, introducing him as an online investigative journalist but senior journalists, political observers and rights activists called him a hypocrite as his findings contradicts the reality completely.

In 2016, AFP started third-party fact-checking programme, and within years, it has now been described as “Facebook’s most expansive global rtner," according to Meta Journalism Project website.

Facebook’s stated objective behind that fact-checking programme is “to identify and address viral misinformation, particularly, clear hoaxes that have no basis in fact” but Shishir happened to breach all these regulations with his actions.

But minority leaders are appalled at what they say displaying the BNP-Jamaat nexus through his write ups.

“Shishir’s claim is a farce with objectivity, as he himself indulged in spreading disinformation. It is nothing less than a mockery to overlook the longstanding alliance between BNP Jamaat that not only undermines the credibility of Facebook as a whole but also shows how the authorities failed to keep up with their stated objective of maintaining transparency”, added Ranjon Karmaker, who earlier worked with Amnesty International and now holds the praesidium rank in the country’s largest minority platform.

“In stopping the spread of hate speech, Facebook failed miserably in Bangladesh while for the spread of communal riots, the platform serves as a safe resort for the rioters to fuel communal attacks in the last decade since a boom in online users," he added.

A Facebook post from Shishir shows he advocated for imposition sanctions on mass media by US ahead of polls, an announcement that was hailed by Jamaat backed handles but decried by civil society members.

Moreover, in the last three months ahead of polls BNP’s verified Facebook pages did spread a series of videos aimed at inciting violence and arson attacks on voters but no visible condemnation raised by Shishir, added Ranjon who also worked with IRI.

On the other hand, a senior journalist, who led AP in Bangladesh and Time Magazine, found such activities as an abuse of journalism and such practices only erode public confidence on Facebook.

“This is double standard on part of fact checkers.. taking the identity of journalists but promoting contents that are not objective is like misinforming the readers ”, added Chapal Bashar, who worked with top Swedish newspaper DAGENS NYHETER, adding “ such trend of spreading disinformation using the tag of journalism is a disservice to the profession and deserves stern action.”.

Several sons and daughters of the martyred intellectuals even complained that they found sudden slap of restrictions from Facebook alarming and also noticed similar trend much earlier particularly in key months that mark significance to liberation war.

Shishir was found at an US Embassy event that saw the participation of another controversial personality who now receives funds as disinformation fighter and claims himself as a journalist, yet in reality, his activism shows he uses social media to peddle political narratives that hold subjective tone.

Even Zillur faced with critical question disregarded journalists outright with the claim 'I don’t care' in the past.

Another senior journalist said, “On the other hand, Zillur has scolded journalists in the face of critical questions, his attempt to project himself as an independent journalist despite the glaring spread of disinformation from his YouTube and Facebook channels is what exactly makes Zillur look like a hypocrite, and he is abusing journalistic credentials.”

“Watching him (Zillur) running disinformation on one hand while the same guy is seen claiming to fight disinformation what makes his case as manifestation of a yellow journalism," added Chapal.

Tonmoy Ahmed, another prominent anti-war crimes campaigner and a fighter against hate speech, echoed the tone of the offspring of martyred families and told of a rise in hate campaigners on the platform.

Already stabbed brutally by an extremist student outfit in 2013, Islami Chhatra Shibir for his campaign against war criminals. Tonmoy said, “As an active user of Facebook for over a decade, I found a dominance of hate campaigners who helped terror groups carry out attacks on minorities, even claiming the face of a war criminal was sighted on the moon and it is important for stop of radicalization.”

Moreover, “exposing hate campaigners and militants who use Facebook as means to recruit young users, upholding the ideals and markers of democracy and values-based society and the essence of the sacrifices of 3 million martyrs are critically becoming challenging.”