Facebook says stepping up efforts to tackle Myanmar hate speech

Platform, accused of fanning hate towards Rohingya, says it removed 280,000 posts that breached rules in second quarter.

A mobile phone user scrolls through Facebook at a shop in Yangon [File: Ann Wang/Reuters]

Facebook said on Tuesday that it was preparing for Myanmar’s general election in November by improving the detection and removal of hate speech and content that incites violence, and preventing the spread of misinformation.

The company said in a blog that between now and November 22, it would remove “verifiable misinformation and unverifiable rumours” that are assessed as having the potential to suppress the vote or damage the “integrity” of the electoral process.

“For example, we would remove posts falsely claiming a candidate is a Bengali, not a Myanmar citizen, and thus ineligible,” Facebook said.

The platform has come under fire in Myanmar over hate speech directed against the mainly Muslim Rohingya over the past decade, including during the brutal military-led crackdown in 2017 that forced more than 730,000 Rohingya to flee the country. Investigators from the United Nations said Facebook played a key role in spreading hate speech that fuelled the violence.

The company admitted two years ago that it had been “too slow” to address the problem.

Facebook said it was working with two partners in Myanmar to verify the official Facebook pages of political parties. It now has three fact-checking partners in Myanmar: BOOM, AFP Fact Check and Fact Crescendo.

Violating standards

It also said it introduced a new feature that limits the number of times a message can be forwarded to five.

The feature is now available in Myanmar and, over the next few weeks, will be made available to Messenger users worldwide, the company added in the blog.

This year’s elections in Myanmar, scheduled for November 8, will be the second since the generals who had led the country for decades ceded power while ensuring their continuing influence through a 25-percent quota of seats in parliament.

The first, in 2016, brought longtime pro-democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) to power but, during the two-month campaign period, an estimated one million Rohingya were stripped of their right to vote.

Facebook and other social media platforms have faced criticism worldwide in recent years from activists, regulators and governments for the spread of misinformation, including during elections.

Source : Reuters

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