Facebook removes Burmese translation feature after anti-Rohingya posts

Smoke is seen on the Myanmar border as Rohingya refugees walk on the shore after crossing the Bangladesh-Myanmar border by boat through the Bay of Bengal, in Shah Porir Dwip, Bangladesh September 11, 2017. (Reuters)
Updated 08 September 2018
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Facebook removes Burmese translation feature after anti-Rohingya posts

  • Facebook was failing in its efforts to combat vitriolic Burmese language posts about Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims
  • In late August, United Nations investigators said Facebook had been “a useful instrument for those seeking to spread hate” against the Muslim minority group

LONDON: Facebook has removed a feature that allowed users to translate Burmese posts and comments after a Reuters report showed the tool was producing bizarre results.
A Reuters investigation published on August 15 documented how Facebook was failing in its efforts to combat vitriolic Burmese language posts about Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims. Some 700,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar over the past year amid a military crackdown and ethnic violence. In late August, United Nations investigators said Facebook had been “a useful instrument for those seeking to spread hate” against the Muslim minority group.
The Reuters article also showed that the translation feature was flawed. It cited an anti-Rohingya post that said in Burmese, “Kill all the kalars that you see in Myanmar; none of them should be left alive.” Kalar is a pejorative for the Rohingya. Facebook had translated the post into English as “I shouldn’t have a rainbow in Myanmar.”
A spokeswoman for Facebook said the Burmese translation feature was “switched off” on August 28. She said the Reuters article and feedback from users “prompted us to do this.”
“We are working on ways to improve the quality of the translations and until then, we have switched off this feature in Myanmar,” the spokeswoman wrote in an email.
Facebook has had other problems interpreting Burmese, Myanmar’s main local language. In April, the California-based social-media company posted a Burmese translation of its internal “Community Standards” enforcement guidelines.
Many of the passages were botched. A sentence that in English stated “we take our role in keeping abuse off our service seriously” was translated into Burmese as “we take our role seriously by abusing our services.”
The Reuters investigation found more than 1,000 examples of hate speech on Facebook, including calling the Rohingya and other Muslims dogs, maggots and rapists, suggesting they be fed to pigs, and urging they be shot or exterminated. Facebook’s rules specifically prohibit attacking ethnic groups with “violent or dehumanizing speech” or comparing them to animals.
Shortly after the article was published, Facebook issued a statement saying it had been “too slow to prevent misinformation and hate” in Myanmar and that it was taking action, including investing in artificial intelligence that can police posts that violate its rules.


Police arrest newspaper publisher in midnight raid in Indian Kashmir

Ghulam Jeelani Qadri, a journalist and the publisher of the Urdu-language newspaper Daily Afaaq, leaves after a court granted him bail, in Srinagar, June 25, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 26 June 2019
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Police arrest newspaper publisher in midnight raid in Indian Kashmir

  • Journalists in Kashmir find themselves caught in the crossfire between the Indian government and militant groups battling for independence

SRINAGAR: Police arrested the publisher of one of the most widely read newspapers in Indian-controlled Kashmir in a midnight raid over a decades-old case, the police and his brother said on Tuesday, highlighting the difficulties facing media in the region.
Tension has run high in the Himalayan region since more than 40 Indian police were killed in a February suicide car bomb attack by a militant group based in Pakistan.
Muslim-majority Kashmir is at the heart of more than seven decades of hostility between nuclear archrivals India and Pakistan. Each claims it in full but rules only a part.
Ghulam Jeelani Qadri, 62, a journalist and the publisher of the Urdu-language newspaper Daily Afaaq, was arrested at his home in the region’s main city of Srinagar, half an hour before midnight on Monday.
“It is harassment,” his brother, Mohammad Morifat Qadri, told Reuters. “Why is a 1993 arrest warrant executed today? And why against him only?“
Qadri was released on bail after a court appearance on Tuesday.
The case dates from 1990, when Qadri was one of nine journalists to publish a statement by a militant group fighting against Indian rule in Kashmir. An arrest warrant for Qadri was issued in 1993, but it was never served.
Qadri had visited the police station involved in the arrest multiple times since the warrant was issued, most recently in 2017 to apply for a passport, his brother added.
Asked why Qadri was arrested at night, Srinagar police chief Haseeb Mughal told Reuters, “Police were busy during the day.”
The Kashmir Union of Working Journalists condemned the arrest, saying it seemed to be aimed at muzzling the press.
“Qadri was attending the office on a daily basis and there was absolutely no need for carrying out a midnight raid at his residence,” it said in a statement.
Journalists in Kashmir find themselves caught in the crossfire between the Indian government and militant groups battling for independence.
Both sides are stepping up efforts to control the flow of information, with the situation at its worst in decades, dozens of journalists have told Reuters.
India is one of the world’s worst places to be a journalist, ranked 138th among 180 countries on the press freedom index of international monitor Reporters Without Borders, with conditions in Kashmir cited as a key reason.