Facebook ‘too slow’ in removing anti-Rohingya hate speech

Social media giant says it has banned some racist Myanmar figures and organisations, but admits to failures.

HRW report on rohingya refugees camps in Bangladesh [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]
Facebook acknowledged it has failed to stem a wave of vitriolic posts about the minority Rohingya [Sorin Furcoi/Al Jazeera]

Facebook has been “too slow” to address hate speech in Myanmar and is acting to remedy the problem by hiring more Burmese speakers and investing in technology to identify problematic content, according to a company statement.

In Thursday’s statement, posted online, Facebook said it was using tools to automatically detect hate speech and hiring more Burmese-language speakers to review posts, following up on a pledge made by founder Mark Zuckerberg to US senators in April.

“The ethnic violence in Myanmar is horrific and we have been too slow to prevent misinformation and hate speech on Facebook,” Facebook said.

The company said that it had more than 60 “Myanmar language experts” in June and plans to have at least 100 by the end of the year.

Facebook said it had banned a number of Myanmar hate figures and organisations from the platform.

The acknowledgement came after a Reuters investigation showed why the company has failed to stem a wave of vitriolic posts about the mostly Muslim Rohingya minority.

Investigations revealed that Facebook had for years dedicated scant resources to combating hate speech in Myanmar, which is a market it dominates and where there have been repeated eruptions of ethnic violence.

In early 2015, for instance, there were only two people at Facebook who could speak Burmese monitoring problematic posts.


More than 1,000 examples of posts, comments, images and videos denigrating and attacking the Rohingya and other Muslims were on the social media platform as of last week.

Some of the material, which included pornographic anti-Muslim images, has been up on Facebook for as long as six years.

There are numerous posts that call the Rohingya and other Muslims dogs and rapists, and urge they be exterminated.

Researchers and human rights activists say they have been warning Facebook for years about how its platform was being used to spread hatred against the Rohingya and other Muslims in Myanmar.

Some 700,000 Rohingya fled their homes last year after an army crackdown that the US denounced as ethnic cleansing.

The Rohingya now live in teeming refugee camps in Bangladesh.

Source: Reuters