Facebook raises investment for language expertise to check hate speech from Sri Lanka

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By PTI

COLOMBO: Social media giant Facebook has increased investment to enhance its expertise in Sri Lanka’s local Sinhala and Tamil languages in an attempt to curb hate speech originating from the country through the platform, according to a media report on Thursday.

As per Facebook’s latest community standards enforcement report, the social media platform removed four million pieces of hate speech globally from the platform in the first quarter of the year.

“We have invested heavily on Sinhala and Tamil language expertise as we have promised. We significantly ramped up our language expertise in Sri Lanka through hiring more experts after the Digana riots,” a spokesperson of the social media giant here was quoted as saying by the Daily Mirror.

The 2018 Digana anti-Muslim riots led the Lankan authorities to block social media networks including WhatsApp and Facebook to prevent people from spreading propaganda.

The official noted that their public policy team members in Sri Lanka have worked closely with the global team in providing additional context to curb hate speech on the platform.

After the Easter Sunday terror attacks, the Sri Lankan government shut down social media platforms to curb the spread of misinformation among the public.

Facebook stated that improvements and expansion of its proactive detection allowed it to increase the amount of content it detected from 3.3 million in 4Q 2018 to four million in 1Q 2019, the report said.

The spokesperson highlighted that 65.4 per cent of hate speech content was removed by its proactive detection tools, compared to 51.5 percent in 3Q18, which is a significant improvement.

“We have invested in proactive detection tools; AI tools become stronger over last few years,” the spokesperson said.

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The official noted that Facebook has to rely more on the community to report such content.

Facebook is in the process of developing a global metric while expanding prevalence measurement to cover more languages and regions, to account for cultural context and nuances for individual languages.

A team of Facebook officials also hosted its second community standard forum in Sri Lanka on Tuesday with civil society leaders and experts.

Facebook has deployed a team of 30,000 people to work on safety and security issues of its users globally, of which over 15,000 have been deployed to look into content-specific issues.

Under its community standards, the social media platform removes hate speech, which includes content that directly attacks people based on their race, religion, national origin, gender identity, caste, sex, ethnicity, serious disability and sexual orientation.

However, Facebook doesn’t regard the ideas that challenge institutions and practices as hate speech, ensuring the right for freedom of speech on the platform.

According to some reports, there were nearly six million Facebook users in Sri Lanka as of last year and there was also a significant number of fake profiles originating from the country, which are mainly used to circulate harmful content.

During the first quarter of this year, Facebook has removed 2.2 billion fake accounts globally.