YEARS after coming under scrutiny for contributing to ethnic and religious violence in Myanmar, Facebook still has problems detecting and moderating hate speech and misinformation on its platform in the Southeast Asian nation, internal documents viewed by The Associated Press show.
Three years ago, the company commissioned a report that found Facebook was used to “foment division and incite offline violence” in the country. It pledged to do better and developed several tools and policies to deal with hate speech.
But the breaches have persisted—and even been exploited by hostile actors—since the Feb. 1, 2021 military takeover this year that resulted in gruesome human rights abuses across the country.
Scrolling through Facebook today, it’s not hard to find posts threatening murder and rape in Myanmar.
One 2 1/2 minute video posted on Oct. 24 of a supporter of the military calling for violence against opposition groups has garnered over 56,000 views.
“So starting from now, we are the god of death for all (of them),” the man says in Burmese while looking into the camera. “Come tomorrow and let’s see if you are real men or gays.”
One account posts the home address of a military defector and a photo of his wife. Another post from Oct. 29 includes a photo of soldiers leading bound and blindfolded men down a dirt path. The Burmese caption reads, “Don’t catch them alive.” Despite the ongoing issues, Facebook saw its operations in Myanmar as both a model to export around the world and an evolving and caustic case. Documents reviewed by AP show Myanmar became a testing ground for new content moderation technology, with the social media giant trialing ways to automate the detection of hate speech and misinformation with varying levels of success.
Facebook’s internal discussions on Myanmar were revealed in disclosures made to the Securities and Exchange Commission and provided to Congress in redacted form by former Facebook employee-turned-whistleblower Frances Haugen’s legal counsel.
The redacted versions received by Congress were obtained by a consortium of news organizations, including The Associated Press. (AP)