The social networking site Facebook is having a tough time combating hate speech in Myanmar. Recently, the tech giant invited journalists for a phone briefing to discuss its progress. At first, it looked like the company was ready for all questions, but the publication of a Reuters’ investigation may suggest differently.
Investigation: Facebook unable to fight hate speech in Myanmar
Researchers and human rights groups have censured Facebook for spreading misinformation, and have warned it that its platform was being used to promote hatred of Muslims, specifically the Rohingya. The social network’s user base increases almost daily, but so does hate speech and misinformation. Further, the tech giant has been pretty slow in taking strict steps against these elements, which is why it is slowly being labelled as ‘hatebook’ by some in the media.
According to Reuters, more than a thousand examples of pornographic images, posts and comments attacking the Rohingya and other Muslims were found on Facebook. Recently, amid ethnic violence and a military crackdown, around 700 thousand members of the Rohingya community had fled the country. A United Nations investigator in March said Facebook was being used to incite hatred and violence against the Muslim minority group. She said, “Facebook had turned into a beast.”
In November 2013, the Australian journalist and researcher Aela Callan warned Facebook about the spread of violent posts against Rohingya on its platform. At the time, Callan met with Elliott Schrage, the most senior communications and policy executive of Facebook. Schrage referred Callan to the staff at Internet.org and a few Facebook employees who were dealing with civil society groups. In an interview to Reuters, Callan said that Schrage did not connect her to anyone inside the company who could deal with the actual problem.
Facebook has no office in Myanmar
It was in April that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told the U.S. Congress that the company would speed up its efforts to block hate speech in Myanmar. The company has removed some popular hate figures from its platform, but there are many others that are still active.
Facebook only recently revealed the number of Burmese content reviewers it had hired for fighting hate speech in Myanmar: sixty Burmese content reviewers, with another forty to be hired by year’s end.
Facebook has no staff or office in Myanmar yet. The company said during the phone call that one of the main reasons it could not moderate content effectively there was because users were not using any of Facebook’s reporting tools. But the reason for the lack of use of these tools could be that some of those tools were only translated into Burmese in late April or early May of this year.