In March, human-rights investigators from the United Nations found that Facebook had played a role in spreading hate speech in Myanmar, fueling ethnic violence that has spurred more than 650,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee Myanmar’s Rakhine state into neighboring Bangladesh. The report, which came amid growing concerns about the way that social networks can incite violence, contained some of the most grave charges leveled against Facebook to date. Chastened by the UN’s findings, Facebook quietly commissioned a study of its own — which it then released on the evening before the US midterm elections, when very few people would be paying attention. The report, which was conducted by the nonprofit Business for Social Responsibility (BSR), is a 62-page document that sets out to understand the dimensions of Facebook’s challenge in Myanmar and offer solutions to mitigate it. After the dust from the midterms more or less cleared, I read the report. And while I spend more time reading hot takes than nonprofit takes-by-committee, I was struck by the degree to which a report that calls itself a “human rights impact assessment” does so little to assess the impact of Facebook on human rights in Myanmar. The authors report speaking with about 60 people in Myanmar for their report, but they fail to explore any specific instances of hate speech on the platform or the resulting harms. Their analysis is limited to high-level, who-can-really-say equivocating. Its approach to understanding the situation on the ground in Myanmar appears to be primarily anecdotal,… [Read full story]
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