In April 2019, the Sudanese people overthrew the military dictator Omar al-Bashir, who ruled the country for 30 years. However, as in many cases when significant changes in history occur, a part of the old regime survived, in this case, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF).
The Rapid Support Forces is the new name for the “Yanjauid militia”, it is infamous for the crimes it committed against civilians in Darfur. International rights organizations have published several reports documenting these crimes, such as “Men With No Mercy” by Human Rights Watch (HRW).
The RSF militia, which the ousted regime created and fostered for many years, still participates in the political arena in the region. It also maintains an active presence on Facebook.
Recently, she was implicated in employing minors as soldiers in the Yemen war. Its leader, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (better known as Hemeti), appears on the “partial list of people to be investigated by the International Criminal Court”.
However, Hemeti not only enjoys his freedom in Sudan, but also plays a role in governance. He serves as deputy director of the Sovereign Council of Sudan, appointed in 2019 as part of a power-sharing agreement to guide Sudan's three-year transition to civilian rule.
Following the fall of al-Bashir, they accused RSF of orchestrating and executing a brutal crackdown on June 3, 2019 against protesters who gathered in a protest to demand the end of the military regime. They raped dozens of peaceful protesters and killed hundreds, and dumped some corpses into the Nile River.
Following the crackdown – later referred to as the “Khartoum Massacre” – international and independent human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International released reports detailing evidence pointing to a series of violations committed by the RSF militia. .
Days after those who participated in the demonstration were dispersed, the Egyptian company New Waves launched a major campaign on social media – Facebook and Instagram, among other platforms – aimed at presenting and selling a good image of the RSF militia and its leaders. .
Despite the terrible violations, RSF maintains a presence on Facebook, which has been its main platform for spreading messages and obtaining legitimacy to manipulate the public. The verified page of the RSF leader and the official page of the militia are still active, publishing content about their activities and speeches by their leaders. There are also many other unofficial pages that support Hemeti. The platform maintains that it did not delete them because Hemeti is a government agent, despite having previously deleted official accounts, including that of a high-ranking general in Myanmar.
For more than a year, I have been coordinating a project that aims to remove the content of the RSF militia from the Internet. As of the beginning of August, more than 20,000 Sudanese had signed an online petition asking Facebook to remove the pages. The comment section says a lot about the anger people feel at the idea of giving up space to the military on such an important platform.
So far, Facebook has not removed the content despite constantly receiving signals through its reporting mechanism.
The rules of the Facebook community clearly state that “they do not allow the presence on the platform of any organization or person who proclaims a violent mission or who commits violence.” The rules define violence as “mass murder (including attempted murder) or multiple murder” and “organized violence or criminal activity.”
Due to past violations and war crimes documented by human rights groups and the United Nations, few cases fit the description above as well as those of the RSF militia. It is also obvious to many that the long-term interest of the RSF militia is to destabilize the Middle East, and act on the orders of their employers to continue recruiting soldiers, including minors, for wars elsewhere in the region.
The launch of the Facebook Content Advisory Council, which will begin operations this year, will provide our campaign with a mechanism to appeal the decision made by the social media giant not to remove the pages and content of the RSF militia. The Council will have the power to overrule Facebook in decisions regarding the moderation of controversial content. Once the process is started, we plan to appeal to the Council, and consequently, demand that it adhere to the community rules and remove the militia from the platform.