Zuckerberg says Facebook will work harder to block hate speech in Burma
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Zuckerberg says Facebook will work harder to block hate speech in Burma

FACEBOOK CEO Mark Zuckerberg told a United States Congressional Hearing on Tuesday that the social media giant would do more to combat hate speech in Burma (Myanmar), amid claims that it did not adequately respond to sharing of anti-Muslim messages on the website.

“What’s happening in Myanmar is a terrible tragedy, and we need to do more,” Zuckerberg said during a 5-hour joint hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee and Senate Judiciary Committee, which is investigating Facebook’s role in electoral interference and spreading hate speech.

The UN has said more than 671,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Burma’s Rakhine State into Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh since Aug 25, 2017 in response to so-called “clearing operations” by Burma’s Tatmadaw army.

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The military and Buddhist vigilantes stand accused of mass killings, rape and arson in Muslim villages – violence that rights groups have characterised as ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity and even genocide.

Several Burmese civil society organisations recently sent an open letter to Facebook, accusing the company of failing to prevent or respond to an “emergency” spurred by its services. “Our community continues to be exposed to virulent hate speech and vicious rumours, which Facebook is still not adequately addressing,” they wrote.

Marzuki Darusman, chairman of the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, said in March that social media had played a “determining role” in Burma’s ethnic conflicts.


Rohingya people who fled from their towns after the violence in the state of Rakhine, are seen behind a fence on the border line outside Maungdaw, Myanmar March 31, 2018. Picture taken March 31, 2018. Source: Reuters/Stringer

“It has … substantively contributed to the level of acrimony and dissension and conflict … within the public. Hate speech is certainly of course a part of that. As far as the Myanmar situation is concerned, social media is Facebook, and Facebook is social media,” he said.

Zuckerberg said Facebook was hiring dozens more Burmese-language speakers to remove threatening content.

SEE ALSO: Burmese Buddhists pen open letter calling for Rohingya peace

“It’s hard to do it without people who speak the local language, and we need to ramp up our effort there dramatically,” he said, adding that Facebook was also asking civil society groups to help it identify figures who should be banned from the network.

He said a Facebook team would also make undisclosed product changes in Burma and other countries where ethnic violence was a problem.

Sri Lanka’s government recently suspended Facebook after the tool was believed to have been used to organise violence against Muslims in the Buddhist-majority nation.

Additional reporting from Reuters.