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Facebook is again criticized for failing to prevent religious conflict in Myanmar

Facebook is again criticized for failing to prevent religious conflict in Myanmar
From TechCrunch - April 10, 2018

Today marks the start of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerbergs much-anticipated trip to Washington as he attends a hearing with the Senate, before moving on to a Congressional hearing tomorrow.

Away from the U.S. political capital, Zuckerberg is engaged in serious discussions about Myanmar with a group of six civil society organizations in the country who tookumbrage at his claim that Facebookssystems had prevented messages aimed at inciting violence between Buddhists and Muslims last September.

Following an open letter to Facebook on Friday that claimed the social network had relied on local sources and remains ill-equipped to handle hate speech,Zuckerberg himself stepped in to personallyrespond.

Thank you for writing it and I apologize for not being sufficiently clear about the important role that your organizations play in helping us understand and respond to Myanmar-related issues, including the September incident you referred to, Zuckerberg wrote.

In making my remarks, my intention was to highlight how were building artificial intelligence to help us better identify abusive, hateful or false content even before it is flagged by our community, he added.

Zuckerberg also claimed Facebook is working to implement new features that include the option to report inappropriate content inside Messenger, and adding more Burmese language reviewerstwo suggestions that the Myanmar-based group had raised.

The group has, however, fired back again to criticize Zuckerbergs response which it said is nowhere near enough to ensure that Myanmar users are provided with the same standards of care as users in the U.S. or Europe.

In particular, the six companies are asking Facebook and Zuckerberg to give information around its efforts, includingthe number of abuse reports it has received, how many have been removed, how quickly it has been done, and its progress on banning accounts.

In addition, the group asked for clarity on the number of Burmese content reviewers on staff, the exact mechanisms that are in place for detecting hate speech, and an update on what action Facebook has taken following its last meeting with the group in December.

When things go wrong in Myanmar, the consequences can be really seriouspotentially disastrous, it added.

The Cambridge Analytica story has become mainstream news in the U.S. and other parts of the world, yet less is known of Facebooks role in spreading religious hatred in Myanmar, where the government stands accused of ethnic cleansing following its treatment of the minority Muslim Rohingya population.

A recent UN Fact-Finding Mission concluded that social media has played a determining role in the crisis, which Facebook the chief actor.

We know that the ultranationalist Buddhists have their own [Facebook pages] and really [are] inciting a lot of violence and a lot of hatred against the Rohingya or other ethnic minorities. Im afraid that Facebook has now turned into a beast, [instead of] what it was originally intended to be used [for], the UNsYanghee Lee said to media.

Close to 30 million of Myanmars 50 million population is said to use the social network, making it a hugely effective way to reach large audiences.

Theres this notion to many people [in Myanmar] that Facebook is the internet,Jes Petersen, CEO ofPhandeeyarone of the companies involved in the correspondence with Zuckerbergtold TechCrunch in an interview last week.

Despite that huge popularity and high levels of abuse that Facebook itself has acknowledged, the social network does not have an office in Myanmar. In fact, its Burmese language reviewers are said to be stationed in Ireland while its policy team is located in Australia.

That doesnt seem like the right combination, but it is also unclear whether Facebook is prepared to make changes to focus on user safety in Myanmar.The company declined to say whether it had plans to open an office on the ground when we asked last week.

Heres Zuckerbergs letter in full:

Dear Htaike Htaike, Jes, Victoire, Phyu Phyu and Thant,

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