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Twitter CEO Dorsey criticized for Myanmar meditation tweets free of political context

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has come under fire for tweets about his meditation retreat in Myanmar and encouraging people to visit the country without mentioning what the United Nations has described as "ethnic cleansing" of the Rohingya Muslim minority.

Jack Dorsey, in a series of enthusiastic tweets, wrote of his silent meditation in Pyin Oo Lwin

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, shown addressing students during a town hall at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in New Delhi on Nov. 12, is being criticized for a series of tweets about his recent meditation retreat trip to Myanmar. (REUTERS)

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has come under fire for tweets about his meditation retreat in Myanmar and encouraging people to visit the country without mentioning what the United Nations has described as "ethnic cleansing" of the Rohingya Muslim minority.

More than 730,000 Rohingya fled a sweeping army crackdown in Rakhine state in 2017, according to UN agencies. The crackdown was launched in response to insurgent Rohingya attacks on security forces.

Rohingya refugees say soldiers and Buddhist civilians killed families, burned many villages and carried out gang rapes. UN-mandated investigators have accused Myanmar's army of "genocidal intent." Myanmar has denied the allegations, saying its forces engaged in a counter-insurgency operation against "terrorists."

"Myanmar is an absolutely beautiful country. The people are full of joy and the food is amazing. I visited the cities of Yangon, Mandalay and Bagan. We visited and meditated at many monasteries around the country," Dorsey tweeted on Sunday.

I'm no expert on meditation, but is it supposed to make you so self-obsessed that you forget to mention you're in a country where the military has committed mass killings & mass rape, forcing hundreds of thousands to flee, in one of today's biggest humanitarian disasters?- Andrew Stroehlein, Human Rights Watch

His tweets included pictures of the barren room where he stayed at a monastery during the retreat, as well as an analysis of his heart rate while meditating. There was no reference to the plight of the Rohingya in any of the tweets.

"I'm no expert on meditation, but is it supposed to make you so self-obsessed that you forget to mention you're in a country where the military has committed mass killings & mass rape, forcing hundreds of thousands to flee, in one of today's biggest humanitarian disasters?" tweeted Andrew Stroehlein, European media director of Human Rights Watch.

Twitter spokesperson Kate Hayes said in an email she had no comment on the criticism.

Social media fuelled discord

In a special report in August, Reuters described how hate speech proliferated on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook at the peak of the military crackdown.

In August 2017, hundreds of new Twitter accounts suddenly sprang up in Myanmar.

Many of the tweets on these accounts appeared to be attempts to counter sympathetic portrayals of the Rohingya by the Western news media and human rights activists.

They portrayed the ethnic minority as illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh, or Bengalis. Members of the ethnic group regard themselves as native to Rakhine State in western Myanmar, but the country has denied most of them citizenship.

These and similar tweets could still be found online nearly a year after the crackdown. Twitter's "hateful conduct policy" forbids attacking groups of people on the basis of race, ethnicity or national origin, or engaging in "behaviour that incites fear about a protected group."

Twitter removed a number of tweets flagged to it by Reuters in the run up to the publication of the report.

Last month, Dorsey kicked up a social media storm in India after a picture of him with a placard saying "smash Brahminical patriarchy," referring to the highest Hindu caste, went viral.

Twitter later apologized for the photo.

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