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.


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.