How dangerous is Facebook?

In just four days, the reputation of a Buddhist monk who had spent decades fighting for the human rights of Cambodians was destroyed.

A smear campaign linked to the Cambodian government went viral on the social media platform, forcing an activist Buddhist cleric into exile. 

First, grainy videos appeared on a fake Facebook page, claiming he had slept with three sisters and their mother. Then a government-controlled religious council defrocked the monk for having violated Buddhist precepts of celibacy. 

The monk, Luon Sovath, was the victim of a smear campaign this summer that relied on fake claims and hastily assembled social media accounts designed to discredit an outspoken critic of the country’s authoritarian policies. 

The sex charges against Mr. Luon Sovath, one of Cambodia’s most celebrated activist monks, went viral. Copies of the videos, which purported to show Facebook Messenger calls between the monk and some of the women, were shared widely on the social media platform. 

Clues in the videos, uncovered by The Times, also undercut the claims. A New York Times investigation found evidence that government employees were involved in the creation and posting of the videos on Facebook. An analysis found split-second footage in which key personal information of two government employees briefly flashes onscreen. The employees work for the Press and Quick Reaction Unit, a propaganda arm of the Cambodian cabinet.

As scandals proliferate on its platform, Facebook has been criticized for being too slow in removing problematic accounts and pages, many fake. It took almost a month for Facebook to take down the page on which the videos smearing the Cambodian monk first aired.

“We recognize the important role that Facebook plays in enabling expression in Cambodia. We want people to feel safe when they’re using our platform, which is why we take reports of impersonation and other violations of our community standards seriously,” said Facebook in a statement. 

Ya, ya, we heard it all before. 

In Malaysia, when a portal removes questionable reader comments in a matter of minutes after being notified is summoned to the federal court in no time. 

Facebook has been under fire for disseminating hate speech and disinformation. It has been criticized for failing to detect Russian influence in the 2016 election, providing a platform for political conspiracy theories and allowing false claims about the coronavirus to proliferate. 

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