CBSN

Facebook failing to tackle hate speech in Myanmar, investigative report finds

A new investigative report finds Facebook is struggling to tackle hate speech against the Rohingya community and other Muslims in Myanmar. According to the report, "Why Facebook is losing the war on hate speech in Myanmar," Reuters found more than 1,000 examples of posts, comments and images on Facebook attacking the minority group.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has admitted there was a problem with hate speech in Myanmar. But Reuters global investigative reporter Steve Stecklow told CBS News that Facebook has failed to be transparent about how many Burmese speakers they have on hand to monitor content.

"Back in 2014, they had one person, they hired a second in early 2015, they outsourced an operation, they've been doing that for a while, but they had no Burmese speakers at all until 2015 when they hired two and they ramped it up slowly until June they had roughly 60 or so people," he said.

Most of those workers are based in Kuala Lumpur. Some others are in Dublin, the base for Facebook's international headquarters. Stecklow said part of the problem is that the social media platform is relying on users to report hate speech, which is especially difficult in a place rife with ethnic tensions.

"A lot of people don't think there's anything wrong with saying terrible things about a religious group," Stecklow said. "So [Facebook's workers], when they come to work, the people I interviewed, they had to handle up to a thousand, actually more than that, thousand or more posts a day or reports on posts a day. So they had no time at all and they still have no time to proactively look for hate speech."

A military crackdown and violence against the Rohingya has driven about 700,000 people from their homes in Rakhine state over the past year.

The CBSN Originals documentary, "Weaponizing Social Media: The Rohingya Crisis," explored the role of misinformation spread on Facebook in fueling the violence. Many members of Myanmar's Buddhist majority perpetuate the false narrative of Rohingya as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and even accuse them of burning down their own villages. (You can watch the documentary at the bottom of this page.)

Stecklow notes that Facebook is the only news source for many in Myanmar, with millions of users. When disinformation is spread through the social network, it can have terrible consequences.

"It has sparked violence when rumors have appeared on Facebook, back in July 2014 for example, there were false rumors there," Stecklow said. "It led to riots. People died. I mean this really is a life and death situation."