- Project Title:
A research consultancy to conduct a preliminary assessment of the use and spread of hate speech, and consequent incitement to violence, particularly through social media platforms.
The initial expansion of democratic space in Myanmar under the previous military government has spurred the rise of an extremist nationalist movement in the public realm particularly through the unbridled use of hate speech – particularly through social media – and eventual incitement to hostility and violence. According to the Internet World Stats for December 2017, an estimated 16 million of Myanmar’s 51 million people use Facebook. It is widely used to spread misinformation and to apply peer pressure on the general public to conform to the views of vocal extremists. Facebook accounts of government ministries appear to be more accessed, as compared to their official ministry websites, for example. Other religious minorities including Muslims and Christians also face increasing hostility, threats and rights violations, including attacks on places of worship that are carried out with impunity.
Local actors have initiated several movements and campaigns tackling hate speech. Panzagar (‘Flower Speech’) is a movement created by Nay Phone Latt in 2013 to battle hate speech in Myanmar. Nay Phone Latt is Executive Director of Myanmar ICT for Development Organization and was himself sentenced to more than 20 years in prison in 2008 for blogging about the 2007 Saffron Revolution, but was released in 2012. Panzagar does not encourage the government to crack down on freedom of speech online; instead, it campaigns for the Internet to remain a free and safe place for people to express their feelings. It prefers to simply shine a light on the dark underbelly of Internet use in Myanmar and to call attention to those inciting violence. On 4 April 2014, a campaign was launched to tackle hate speech against Muslims in Myanmar society by distributing posters, pamphlets and stickers on the streets and literally putting flowers in people’s mouths.
In 2015, a selfie campaign called “My Friend” was launched by Myanmar students promoting cross-cultural friendships and encouraging people from different religions and ethnic groups to snap selfies together and post them online. In March 2016, activists launched a page on Facebook dedicated to addressing the rising number of hate speech cases in Myanmar. The “No-Hate Speech Project” is funded by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) and functions by identifying an original post that contains hate speech elements and then discredits the hateful statements by countering them with facts and alternative viewpoints. Since the launch of the project, it has responded to hate speech that targeted Muslims, women, ethnic rebels, and foreign workers. In 2016, some Facebook users started using the hashtags #Say_No_to_Racism and #2016_OnlineCampaign to fight hate speech.
With growing attention on the role of Facebook and its seemingly ineffective response to addressing hate speech spread through the social media platform, a group of local NGOs wrote to Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, who responded in person to said group local NGOs. Around the same time, OHCHR Headquarters are engaging with Facebook and other social media companies on the more general issue of online content. One of the outcomes of this engagement is the establishment by Facebook of the “Trusted Partner Channel” where OHCHR can engage with them directly and on an expedited basis regarding threats/hate speech that surface on its platform.
In Myanmar, a law is being drafted for ‘the Protection Against Hate-Speech’ that has gone through several drafts. The Special Rapporteur has raised concerns that the third draft of the bill contains sweeping provisions that threaten to undermine protection for human rights and that provide a legal basis for censure of legitimate expression by the executive branch. She is also concerned by the lack of transparency in the legislative process surrounding this bill and called for wide consultation with the public, including religious organizations and civil society. Notably, the Rakhine Advisory Commission’s report includes a recommendation that Myanmar actively combat hate speech, including through a robust legal framework. The Transport and Communications Minister had announced earlier in the year that the Ministry had disbursed over K6.426 billion from the government’s emergency fund to investigate individuals threatening the country’s stability on social media. The Minister added that they have formed a Social Media Monitoring Team authorised by the Union government and had allocated K6.426 billion to set up infrastructure and purchased hardware and software.
- Objectives and Scope of Work:
The consultancy aims at assessing:
- the use of hate speech on media platforms (especially social media such as Facebook); and
- how such incitement to hatred and violence is being addressed by the authorities within the context of right to freedom of expression and the Rabat Plan of Action.
Depending on the outcome of the Consultant’s findings and assessment, a public report will be prepared (in both English and Myanmar) and issued to raise awareness on the impact of hate speech and its unbridled use within the Myanmar context, including potentially having led/created the permissive environment which allowed serious human rights violations with impunity.
Under the overall supervision of the Myanmar Team Leader and in regular consultation with the Myanmar Team focal point on ‘Democratic space’ – both of whom are based in SEARO in Bangkok, the Consultant shall be responsible for the following elements:
- Provide an overview and summary on the use of hate speech and incitement to violence in Myanmar;
- Map out and engage with the range of local and international actors who have a focus on the issue of hate speech and incitement to violence as well as the different means and mechanisms employed by these actors to tackle hate speech and incitement to violence;
- Identify and assess the effectiveness of measures taken by the authorities to address hate speech since the quasi-civilian (NLD-led) government took over from the military government;
- Conduct a rapid human rights gap analysis, which includes a gender analysis, to inform OHCHR on key human rights issues; targeted groups; civil society space; and potential areas of intervention and engagement for OHCHR;
- Produce an initial assessment with preliminary recommendations on next steps, which may be considered for an eventual public report;
- Draft a report to a concise and publishable form, below 25 pages, in line with the OHCHR guidelines for human rights public reporting with human rights analysis.
- Expected Outputs and Deliverables:
Completion of the initial assessment and production/publication of a report on hate speech and incitement to violence, particularly through Facebook, within the context of the right to freedom of expression and the Rabat Plan of Action. Both English and Myanmar versions of the report will be required.
- Duration of Work:
The estimated time frame of the consultancy is a total of 40 days, to be carried out between July and August 2018.
- Location of Consultancy:
The Consultant should ideally be already based in Myanmar. If the Consultant is based outside of Myanmar, s/he may have to travel at least once to the country to fulfil the requirements of the consultancy.
- Competencies and Qualifications of the Successful Individual Contractor:
Skills: Demonstrated skills in conducting human rights research, conducting legal analysis and producing reports.
Academic qualifications: Consultant must have a Master’s degree in international law, human rights or related subjects; or a Bachelor’s degree and an additional 2 years’ relevant professional experience.
Professional experience: Minimum 5 years of proven national and international experience in the human rights field. Preference shall be given to a candidate who has prior experience of working in/on Myanmar and have deep understanding of human rights situation in the country. Experience of working on freedom of expression, hate speech and the Rabat Plan of Action is a distinct advantage.
Language: Fluency and both English and Myanmar are required.
- Recommended Presentation of Offer:
All proposals should include:
- A covering letter confirming interest and availability, as well as outlining why the individual considers her/himself most suited to the assignment. If relevant, the letter may include an explanation on how the Consultant will approach and complete the assignment (the methodology);
- Professional CV indicating all past experiences from similar projects, and including professional references;
- Financial proposal indicating either (i) an all-inclusive fixed total contract price; or (ii) an all-inclusive daily rate, along with a proposed workplan.
- Scope of Price and Schedule of Payments:
The Consultant will be paid according to the schedule below:
- 40%: Upon completion of initial assessment on the use of hate speech and incitement to violence, on measures undertaken by the Myanmar authorities to address hate speech, and initial human rights gap analysis
- 60%: Upon submission of final reports in both English and Myanmar
- Criteria for Selection of the Best Offer:
Proposals will be evaluated using the cumulative analysis method with a split 80% technical and 20% financial scoring. The proposal with the highest cumulative scoring will be awarded the contract.