The United Nation's fact-finding mission in the conflict-ridden Myanmar has blamed social media users, mainly those on Facebook, for spreading hatred against Rohingya Muslims.
The body said that social media had played a "determining role" in Myanmar by serving hate speech, reportedReuters.
"It has … substantively contributed to the level of acrimony and dissension and conflict, if you will, within the public. Hate speech is certainly of course a part of that. As far as the Myanmar situation is concerned, social media is Facebook, and Facebook is social media," chairman of the fact-finding mission Marzuki Darusman was quoted as saying by the agency.
Nearly 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled northern Rakhine state to Bangladesh since Myanmar launched a brutal crackdown on insurgents six months ago amid accounts of arson, murder and rape at the hands of soldiers and vigilante mobs in the mainly Buddhist country.
However, Myanmar government led by Aung San Suu Kyi has vehemently denied US and UN allegations of ethnic cleansing, insisting it was responding to attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army in late August.
A top UN rights expert on Monday had warned that the crackdown on Myanmar's Rohingya minority bore "the hallmarks of genocide" and insisted the government should be held accountable. UN special rapporteur to Myanmar Yanghee Lee suggested that term was not strong enough. "I am becoming more convinced that crimes committed ... Bear the hallmarks of genocide, and call in the strongest terms for accountability," she told the UN Human Rights Council, reported the AFP.
Lee said that Facebook was used as the toll by the state government to disseminate information to the public.
"Everything is done through Facebook in Myanmar," The Guardianquotedher as saying.
"It was used to convey public messages but we know that the ultra-nationalist Buddhists have their own Facebooks and are really inciting a lot of violence and a lot of hatred against the Rohingya or other ethnic minorities," she said.
"I’m afraid that Facebook has now turned into a beast, and not what it originally intended."
The South Korean academic, who has been barred from visiting Myanmar, called for a UN-backed investigation based in Bangladesh.
UN human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein also called last week for the creation of a new body tasked with preparing criminal indictments over atrocities committed in Myanmar. The quest for accountability "must be aimed at the individuals who gave the orders and carried out violations against individuals and entire ethnic and religious groups," Lee said.
"The government leadership who did nothing to intervene, stop or condemn these acts must also be held accountable," she added.
Myanmar's civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been the target of global vitriol for a perceived failure to stand up for the stateless minority. But she remains a heroine for most of her compatriots, who largely consider the Rohingya as unwanted illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
Facebook has not yet made any public comment on the charges yet.