Facebook steps up efforts to protect Myanmar polls

Facing flak for failing to prevent hate speech from spreading on its platform in Myanmar, Facebook has announced additional steps aimed at protecting the integrity of November elections in the country.

The social network who had admitted that they have been “too slow” to prevent the spread of misinformation and hate speech in Myanmar said it will significantly reduce the distribution of content that its proactive detection technology identifies as likely hate speech.

“This content will be removed if determined to violate our policies, but its distribution will remain reduced until that determination is made,” it said in a blog post on Wednesday.

Facebook said it is using technology to identify new words and phrases associated with hate speech in Myanmar.

“We are constantly revising and updating the list of Myanmar-specific, prohibited words and phrases,” it said.

Late last month, four human rights groups claimed that the social networking giant played a role in the 2017 violence in Myanmar that forced hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas to seek refuge in Bangladesh.

Representatives of the Voice of Rohingya, Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights, Rohingya Youth for Legal Action, and Rohingya Women for Justice and Peace said they had a phone call with Facebook Director for Human Rights Miranda Sissons, and her colleague Alex Waraofka.

“We told her that we were forced to flee from Myanmar to Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh after the violence in Myanmar, which Facebook played a role in,” said the joint statement.

“Now, it is Facebook’s duty to help us to get justice and, and to improve our lives in the camp,” it added.

Facebook said in a fresh statement that it will improve efforts to temporarily reduce the distribution of content from accounts that have recently and repeatedly violated its policies in the country. This includes providing additional information to those whose accounts are affected.

“We work with third-party fact-checkers around the world, including three partners in Myanmar who are certified by the International Fact-Checking Network, to provide people with additional context about the content they’re seeing on Facebook”.

The company said it is also working across Myanmar to train civil society organisations and reporters on journalist safety, media and digital literacy, as well as Facebook’s Community Standards and third-party fact-checking programmes.

“We’ve also introduced tools to newsrooms in Myanmar such as CrowdTangle, a public insights tool from Facebook that makes it easy to follow, analyze and report on what’s happening with public content on social media,” Facebook said.

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said last month that the international community must adapt its assistance to the critical needs of those displaced and the host communities supporting them.

UNHRC spokesperson Andrej Mahecic said the UN refugee agency and the Bangladesh government have individually registered over 860,000 Rohingya refugees in the Cox’s Bazar settlements.

The country now hosts nine out of 10 Rohingya refugees registered in the Asia-Pacific region.