Facebook was “too slow” to address hate speech in Myanmar and is now attempting to remedy the problem by hiring more Burmese speakers and investing in technology to identify potentially problematic content, the company said in its statement on Thursday.
The statement was issued a day after an investigation showed the reason why the company has failed to weed out a series of vitriolic posts about the Rohingya minority.
Some 700,000 Rohingya fled from their homes last year following an army crackdown that the United States condemned and denounced as a form of “ethnic cleansing.” The Rohingya now live in refugee camps located in Bangladesh.
“The ethnic violence in Myanmar is horrific and we have been too slow to prevent misinformation and hate speech on Facebook,” said the company in its statement.
The investigation conducted by a news agency revealed that the social media giant for years allocated minimal resources in fighting hate speech in Myanmar, which is one market it dominates. It is in Myanmar where there have been continual eruptions of ethnic violence.
For instance, in 2015, there were only two people at Facebook who could speak Burmese and who monitor problematic posts.
In the company’s statement, which was posted online, Facebook stated that it was using tools to automatically detect hate speech. It said it was also hiring more Burmese-language speakers to review posts, following up on a promise made by its CEO Mark Zuckerberg to US senators in April.
The company said that it had more than 60 “Myanmar language experts” in June. It also claimed that it was planning to have at least 100 by the end of the year.
The probe 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 the previous week.
Some of the material, which included pornographic anti-Muslim images, have been running on Facebook for as long as six years.
There are numerous posts that label the Rohingya and other Muslims as dogs and rapists, urging that the minority be exterminated.
Facebook at present doesn’t have a single employee in Myanmar. It relies instead on the outsourced, secretive operation in Kuala Lumpur, which is a project called Honey Badger, to monitor hate speech and other problematic posts, the investigation showed.
Since Facebook’s system finds it difficult to interpret Burmese script, the social media tech giant is heavily reliant on users reporting hate speech in Myanmar.
Researchers, along with human rights activists, say they have been warning Facebook for years about the way its platform is being used to spread hatred against the Rohingya and other Muslims in Myanmar.
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