Is Facebook equipped to regulate hate speech?

Facebook’s motto is to connect you to the world. It is to find long lost classmates and friends. Apparently. Alternatively, used by parents and distant relatives as a convenient benign mode of sheer entertainment to track and criticise other relatives.

However, recently, Facebook has been accused of promoting hate speech and inciting genocite in Myanmar. In August, a Reuters investigation renaming Facebook as “Hatebook” along with the Human Rights Centre at UC Berkely School of Law found over 1000 anti-Rohingya hate speech posts ranging from the hope that the refugees would drown at sea to calling for Rohingya citizens to be shot, set on fire and fed to pigs. Other horrific posts included the express words “we must fight them the way Hitler did the Jews, damn kalars”, further including descriptions of the Rohingya group as being dogs, maggots and rapists. Some of these posts even remained live on the social network for over six years until it was reported to Facebook!

While Facebook touts for strictly prohibiting ‘violent or dehumanising’ attacks, evidence suggests otherwise. The problem has persisted mainly due to the fact that the social media giant isn’t equipped to grapple with hate speech owing to language barriers, particularly in Myanmar. In simple words: Facebook has lost the content in translation. For Example: an anti-Rohingya post in Burmese read “kill all the kalars you see in Myanmar, none of them should be left alive.” While the word kalar has dual meanings, one bearing an extremely hurtful and derogatory text targeted towards Muslims, the other meaning a chickpea. Facebook translated this violent hate speech into English to read “I shouldn’t have a rainbow in Myanmar.

In an interview earlier in 2018, Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged the fault and promised to rectify the issue. One of the solutions was to employ ‘at least 100 Burmese language experts’ by the end of 2018. The 100 language experts promised was somehow estimated to tackle a population in billions using Facebook. For a while, Facebook « monitored » hate speech through a contractor in Kulala Lumpur codenamed “Project Honey Badger” that has approximately 60 persons reviewing content posted in Myanmar. So far in its attempt to curtail the allegations, it has created 5 career posts for Burmese speaker, deleted approximately 18 accounts, one of them belonging to Ashin Wirathu, a ‘radical monk’ infamous for his hate speech against Muslims. Is this « effort » enough or is it safe to assume that the social network sight is nothing more than “a fetid swamps of mistruths and outright lies. »



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