Myanmar netizens were in an uproar today after Facebook seemingly banned people from posting the word “kalar,” often used as a slur against Muslims, at a time of rising Islamophobia in the country.Facebook is under global pressure to clamp down on hate speech, violent threats or deliberately misleading information on their platform — with efforts showing varying degrees of success.
Dozens of users in Myanmar reported being temporarily barred from the site recently after posting the controversial term kalar, which is frequently used as an insult for the country’s embattled Muslim minority. Facebook did not reply to emailed requests for comment while a spokesman for the Myanmar government said it had not pushed for a ban.
Kalar is a deeply controversial term in Myanmar, where it is used to refer to foreigners in general but most commonly to describe people of Indian origin and anything relating to their culture.Over the years, it has also been turned into a derogatory slur by Buddhist nationalists against Muslims. Two angry Facebook users have responded to the apparent ban by creating an event called “We own Kalar” in protest. The push comes as Myanmar’s government has been seeking to clamp down on hate speech after a spike in anti-Muslim actions by Buddhist hardliners.