Facebook says it was ‘too slow’ to fight hate speech in Myanmar

Because of Facebook’s systems struggle to interpret Burmese script, the company is heavily dependent on users reporting hate speech in Myanmar. (Reuters)
Updated 16 August 2018
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Facebook says it was ‘too slow’ to fight hate speech in Myanmar

YANGON: Facebook has been “too slow” to address hate speech in Myanmar and is acting to remedy the problem by hiring more Burmese speakers and investing in technology to identify problematic content, the company said in a statement on Thursday.
The acknowledgement came a day after a Reuters investigation showed why the company has failed to stem a wave of vitriolic posts about the minority Rohingya.
Some 700,000 Rohingya fled their homes last year after an army crackdown that the United States denounced as ethnic cleansing. The Rohingya now live in teeming refugee camps in Bangladesh.
“The ethnic violence in Myanmar is horrific and we have been too slow to prevent misinformation and hate speech on Facebook,” Facebook said.
The Reuters story revealed the social media giant for years dedicated scant resources to combating hate speech in Myanmar, which is a market it dominates and where there have been repeated eruptions of ethnic violence.
In early 2015, for instance, there were only two people at Facebook who could speak Burmese monitoring problematic posts.
In Thursday’s statement, posted online, Facebook said it was using tools to automatically detect hate speech and hiring more Burmese-language speakers to review posts, following up on a pledge made by founder Mark Zuckerberg to US senators in April.
The company said that it had over 60 “Myanmar language experts” in June and plans to have at least 100 by the end of the year.
Reuters found more than 1,000 examples of posts, comments, images and videos denigrating and attacking the Rohingya and other Muslims that were on the social media platform as of last week.
Some of the material, which included pornographic anti-Muslim images, has been up on Facebook for as long as six years.
There are numerous posts that call the Rohingya and other Muslims dogs and rapists, and urge they be exterminated.
Facebook currently doesn’t have a single employee in Myanmar, relying instead on an outsourced, secretive operation in Kuala Lumpur – called Project Honey Badger – to monitor hate speech and other problematic posts, the Reuters investigation showed.
Because Facebook’s systems struggle to interpret Burmese script, the company is heavily dependent on users reporting hate speech in Myanmar.
Researchers and human rights activists say they have been warning Facebook for years about how its platform was being used to spread hatred against the Rohingya and other Muslims in Myanmar.
In its statement on Thursday, Facebook said it had banned a number of Myanmar hate figures and organizations from the platform.


Facebook accused of discrimination with job ad targeting

Updated 19 September 2018
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Facebook accused of discrimination with job ad targeting

  • It charges that job ads on Facebook targeted male users only
  • Facebook lets advertisers target ads on the basis of gender and age, which is against the law in America

WASHINGTON: A complaint has been filed with the US government accusing Facebook and 10 other companies of using the platform’s job ad targeting system to discriminate on the basis of gender.
The complaint was announced Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union, a union called the Communications Workers of America and a labor law firm, on behalf of three female job seekers and a group of “thousands” of members represented by the union.
It charges that job ads on Facebook targeted male users only. It also alleges that most of the listings were for jobs in male-dominated fields, so women and non-binary users were excluded from seeing these ads.
Facebook lets advertisers target ads on the basis of gender and age, which is against the law in America, the complaint reads.
“I shouldn’t be shut out of the chance to hear about a job opportunity just because I am a woman,” said Bobbi Spees, one of the three women named in the complaint.
Facebook spokesman Joe Osborne said in a statement to CNNMoney that there is no place for discrimination on Facebook.
“It’s strictly prohibited in our policies, and over the past year we’ve strengthened our systems to further protect against misuse,” Osborne said.
Facebook will defend itself once it has reviewed the complaint, he added.
The ACLU noted that online platforms such as Facebook are generally not liable for content published by others.
“But in this case, Facebook is doing much more than merely publishing content created by others,” the advocacy group argued.
“It has built the architecture for this discriminatory marketing framework, enabled and encouraged advertisers to use it, and delivered the gender-based ads according to employers’ sex-based preferences.”
Last month the US Department of Housing and Urban Development accused Facebook of breaking the law by letting landlords and home sellers use its ad-targeting system to discriminate against potential buyers or tenants.
Facebook responded by cutting more than 5,000 ad-targeting options to prevent advertisers from discriminating on the basis of traits such as religion or race.