In recent weeks we have looked at the clash of social networks and democracy in the United States. So let us focus our attention abroad.
Assam is a state in India where a large population of Bengali Muslims live. The ruling party of India, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), are Hindu nationalists. In August, after six years of development, the government has one controversial national register of citizens that left out 1.9 million inhabitants, including many Muslims. The government presented the project as part of an attempt to dislodge "infiltrators," but the overall effect was to create an environment of fear of minorities in Assam, many of whom are poor.
Facebook doesn't do that at all. But as we have seen in other countries where ethnic tensions run high, the platform has become what the human rights group is Avaaz calls a & # 39; megaphone for hate & # 39; in a report published Tuesday. Here is Pranav Dixit BuzzFeed:
Comments and messages from Bengali Muslims & # 39; pigs & # 39 ;, & # 39; terrorists & # 39 ;, & # 39; dogs & # 39 ;, & # 39; rapists & # 39; and & # 39; criminals & # 39; Names – apparently contrary to Facebook standards for hate speech – were shared nearly 100,000 times and viewed at least 5.4 million times, the Avaaz review showed, which included 800 Facebook messages related to Assam. From September, Facebook had only removed 96 of the 213 messages and comments that the organization had reported, including calls to poison Hindu girls to prevent Muslims from raping them. (…)
"Facebook is being used as a megaphone for hatred, aimed directly at vulnerable minorities in Assam, many of whom can become stateless within months," said Alaphia Zoyab, senior campaigner at Avaaz, in a statement. “Despite the clear and current danger these people face, Facebook refuses to use the resources needed to keep them safe. By doing nothing Facebook is complicit in the prosecution of some of & # 39; the world's most vulnerable people. "
The report is unfortunately not publicly available, and even so to speak, I cannot read Assamese. It is worth noting that Facebook does not agree with Avaaz's claim that everything the group has found is hate speech. ("We have clear rules against hate speech, which we define as attacks on people based on issues such as caste, nationality, ethnicity and religion, and which reflect the input we have received from experts in India," the company told Dixit. And fortunately, as far as I can tell, nothing in the report links the spread of hate speech in Assam with violence from the real world.
However, reports about increasing xenophobia and hate speech on social platforms will always make me nervous. After all, it was only a year ago a crowd in the Indian village of Rainpada killed five strangers by a rumor on WhatsApp. And it was only 18 months ago that human rights researchers from the United Nations said that Facebook had played a role in spreading hate speech in Myanmar during that country's genocide against the Rohingya Muslim minority.
In the aftermath of the Rohingya tragedy, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights issued an excellent, nuanced report on the conflict. (I wrote about it at the time.) One thing I have taken out of the report is this excellent suggestion, which to my knowledge no social platform has ever taken over:
Before entering a new market, in particular those with volatile ethnic, religious or other social tensions, Facebook and other social media platforms, including messaging systems, must conduct thorough human rights impact assessments for their products, policies and activities, based on national context and take mitigating measures to minimize risks.
I wonder what such an impact assessment could have said about Assam before Facebook opened the store there. Does Facebook use enough content moderators who speak Assamese? How effectively can its machine learning systems understand potential hate speech in that language?
That leads to a second thing that I have taken from the UN report, namely that social platforms must provide country-specific reports on the hateful language they discover on their networks. As I wrote then:
Facebook should provide country-specific information about hate speech and other violations of the company's community standards in Myanmar. We may not be able to say with certainty to what extent social networks contribute to ethnic violence – but we should be able to follow hate speech flare-ups on our largest social networks. Dehumanizing speech is so often the precursor to violence – and Facebook, if it took its role seriously, could help as an early warning system.
And in Assam, that early warning system seems to be flashing red.
Today in news that can influence the public perception of the major technological platforms.
Popular: Facebook has launched a preventive health tool that allows users to receive personalized reminders about health tests and vaccines. The tool uses the age and gender of someone's Facebook profile to send recommended screenings.
Trending down: Google executives told employees that a former senior security officer from the Ministry of Homeland Security who had recently joined the company, "was not involved in family separation policies." It turns out he was, and some employees feel misled.
⭐ Facebook, Amazonand Apple all are increasing their lobbying activities as antitrust investigation grows in Washington. Facebook increased spending by nearly 25 percent, to $ 12.3 million, during the first nine months of the year in the same period in 2018. Ryan Tracy at The Wall Street Journal has more:
The rise of the technical lobby is in the midst of increased control of technology companies in Washington. Facebook is face antitrust investigations from the Federal Trade Commission, the Department of Justice and Public Advocates General. Amazon is a target of an emerging Federal Trade Commission probe in its market power.
The House Judiciary Committee investigates Apple, Facebook and Amazon and investigates giant Google.
The companies have said they welcome the audit and are collaborating with researchers.
Elizabeth Warren said that if she is elected, she will ban large tech companies like Facebook of hiring senior government employees right outside the office. The plan is the latest in her campaign to fight corruption in Washington and Silicon Valley – and named Joel Kalpan, Facebook's head of policy. (Louise Matsakis / Wired)
Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) makes his name by checking Facebook and Google. The congressman is perhaps an even bigger threat than Warren, because he is able to try to regulate the technology industry together with Democrats. (On the other hand, his idea of banning content moderation is further than what the First Amendment allows, insane.) (Emily Stewart / Recode)
Facebook and Google agreed to stop selling political ads in Washington State last year, but they still do. They said they would stop after Attorney General Bob Ferguson sued them for not obeying state rules on transparency of political advertisements. (David Gutman / The Seattle Times)
Former Facebook security chief Alex Stamos suggested restricting micro targeting of potential voters on the platform in paid political advertising. It is a suggestion from Facebook's own employees their recent letter to Mark Zuckerberg. (Mathew Ingram and Alex Stamos / Columbia Journalism Review)
The letter that Facebook employees sent to Mark Zuckerberg, who encouraged him to reconsider his position on misinformation in political advertisements, is perhaps the most meaningful action they have taken to date against the policies of their own company. (Lauren Kaori Gurley / Vice)
Facebook two domain hosts sued for alleged hosting of websites offering hacker tools against the company. The websites, "HackingFacebook.net" and "iiinstagram.com," reportedly allow people to hack phishing and Facebook accounts. (Alfred Ng / CNET)
The European Union has issued a statement calling for it Google, Facebookand twitter to do more to combat disinformation. EU Commissioners also warned that they could introduce legislation to regulate companies if they do not start working better. (Natalia Drozdiak / Bloomberg)
Microsoft said Russian state hackers attacked the computers of 16 national and international anti-doping organizations. Officials continue to face the Russian doping scandal of 2015, which has been snowing in recent months after the failed drug tests of Russian athletes were cleared from a critical data set. (Nicole Perlroth and Tariq Panja / The New York Times)
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is suing Google for alleged misleading customers about how they have collected location data. The watchdog group said the company prevented people from making informed choices when setting up their Android accounts. (Josh Taylor / The Guardian)
Lawmakers in Australia are developing facial recognition technology to limit children's access to porn and to verify the age of the viewer. The UK tried to take a similar measure, but stopped after privacy defenders expressed their concerns. (Timothy B. Lee / Ars Technica)
⭐ WhatsApp continued the Israeli cyber surveillance company NSO Group, claims the company used the popular messaging service in a broad espionage campaign against journalists and human rights activists. Nicole Perlroth is here The New York Times:
The investigation began last spring, then Citizen Lab accused that the technology of NSO Group had exploited a WhatsApp vulnerability to hack the phone of a London lawyer. The lawyer represented several plaintiffs in lawsuits who accused the NSO Group of providing tools to hack the phones of a Saudi dissident living in Canada, a Qatari citizen and a group of Mexican journalists and activists.
Will Cathcart, head of WhatsApp, wrote an opinion about how the company discovered the attack and why they started a lawsuit. (Will Cathcart / The Washington Post)
TapTokThe parent company ByteDance is still in the early stages of considering a first public offer, either in the US or in Hong Kong, according to Bloomberg. ByteDance has refused the report – so if it becomes public next year, it will tell us a lot about the credibility of ByteDance. (Lulu Yilun Chen, Zheping Huang and Manuel Baigorri / Bloomberg)
Mozilla announced a partnership with Element AI to advocate for ethical artificial intelligence. The collaboration includes the development of tools to give people more control over their data. (Charlie Osborne / ZDNet)
Reductress always has your back.