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

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.


Malaysian police chief insists Al Jazeera probe ‘professional’

Updated 05 August 2020

Malaysian police chief insists Al Jazeera probe ‘professional’

  • The government said the documentary tarnished the image of the country
  • Abdul Hamid said the investigation “will be very transparent”

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s police chief insisted Wednesday investigations into an Al Jazeera documentary are being conducted “professionally” and rejected concerns about worsening media freedom, a day after the broadcaster’s office was searched.
Authorities are investigating the news network’s program “Locked up in Malaysia’s Lockdown,” after the government was angered by its critical look at the treatment of migrant workers during the coronavirus pandemic.
Officials on Tuesday searched the Qatar-based broadcaster’s Kuala Lumpur office and seized two computers, sparking fresh anger from Al Jazeera and rights groups and adding to concerns about media independence in Malaysia.
But the country’s Inspector-General of Police Abdul Hamid Bador said the search by police and communications ministry officials was carried out “very professionally.”
“It was not a military kind of action taken by the police,” he told AFP in an interview.
He added that Al Jazeera staff were “informed earlier of our intent to be there. They were even asked which devices were used. They cooperated.”
The search came after seven Al Jazeera journalists were questioned by police last month in connection with the documentary.
Abdul Hamid said the probe would be wrapped up soon, after which the attorney-general will decide whether to bring charges.
But the government insists the documentary — which focused on alleged mistreatment of migrants when they were rounded up during a coronavirus lockdown in May — tarnished the country’s image.
Authorities say the round-up was necessary to protect the public from the virus.
Al Jazeera is being probed for alleged sedition, defamation and transmitting offensive content, but it has stood by the documentary and insists the reporting was impartial.
Abdul Hamid said the investigation “will be very transparent” and insisted journalists in Malaysia were still free to do their jobs.
But he also urged international media to “be responsible,” calling them not to “write something... that is inaccurate.”