Myanmar Rohingya: Facebook ‘still hosts hate speech’

More than 1,000 anti-Rohingya posts featuring calls for their murder among other hate speech were live on Facebook last week, according to Reuters. A probe by the news agency...

More than 1,000 anti-Rohingya posts featuring calls for their murder among other hate speech were live on Facebook last week, according to Reuters.

A probe by the news agency indicates that the network is still being used to encourage violence against the Muslim group in Myanmar despite the tech firm promising to tackle the issue.

It said some of the material had been online for six years.

Facebook’s rules prohibit “violent or dehumanising” attacks on ethnic groups.

However, the US-based firm mostly relies on users to flag related offending posts rather than hunting them out itself, in part because its software has not had enough training to reliably interpret Burmese text.

The BBC understands Facebook has now removed all the flagged material.

The investigation was carried out in conjunction with the Human Rights Center at the University of California’s Berkeley School of Law.

It is likely to add to pressure on the tech company to invest more resources into tackling the problem. Its efforts have previously been criticised by the United Nations as well as politicians in the US and UK.

About 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have left Myanmar since 2017, many of whom now live in refugee camps in Bangladesh.

They have reported that Burmese soldiers and vigilantes had murdered and raped members of their community and burned their homes.

Myanmar’s military says it is fighting Rohingya militants and denies targeting civilians in Rakhine state.

Reuters said that most of the anti-Rohingya comments, images and videos it had discovered were in the Burmese language.

In a statement, Facebook acknowledged that it had originally been slow to spot the problem of hate speech spreading “in countries like Myanmar, where many people are using the internet for the first time”.

“We’re now working hard to ensure we’re doing all we can to prevent the spread of misinformation and hate,” it added.

“In the last year, we have established a team of product, policy and operations experts to roll out better reporting tools, a new policy to tackle misinformation that has the potential to contribute to offline harm, faster response times on reported content, and improved proactive detection of hate speech.”

Reuters reported that Facebook had outsourced most of its Myanmar-related effort to an outside firm – Accenture – which in turn relied on 60 people to review reports of hate speech from the country, as of June.

About 50 million people live in Myanmar, of whom about 18 million regularly use the social network. (Courtesy BBC)

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