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Facebook struggling to end hate speech in Myanmar, investigation finds

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San Francisco, Aug 16 : Facebook acknowledged that it has been “too slow” to prevent the spread of  hate speech  that resulted into ethnic violence in Myanmar.

The admission came after a Reuters investigation on Wednesday revealed that Facebook has struggled to address hate posts about the minority Rohingya, the social media giant said the rate at which bad content is reported in Burmese, whether it’s hate speech or misinformation, is low.

“This is due to challenges with our reporting tools, technical issues with font display and a lack of familiarity with our policies. We’re investing heavily in Artificial Intelligence that can proactively flag posts that break our rules,” Sara Su, Product Manager at Facebook, said in a statement.

According to Facebook, in the second quarter of 2018, it proactively identified about 52 per cent of the content it removed for hate speech in Myanmar.

“This is up from 13 per cent in the last quarter of 2017, and is the result of the investments we’ve made both in detection technology and people, the combination of which help find potentially violating content and accounts and flag them for review,” said Facebook.

Facebook said it proactively identified posts as recently as last week that indicated a threat of credible violence in Myanmar.

“We removed the posts and flagged them to civil society groups to ensure that they were aware of potential violence,” said the blog post.

In May, a coalition of activists from eight countries, including India and Myanmar, called on Facebook to put in place a transparent and consistent approach to moderation.

The coalition demanded civil rights and political bias audits into Facebook’s role in abetting human rights abuses, spreading misinformation and manipulation of democratic processes in their respective countries.

Besides India and Myanmar, the other countries that the activists represented were Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, the Philippines, Syria and Ethiopia.

Facebook said that as of June, it had over 60 Myanmar language experts reviewing content and will have at least 100 by the end of this year.

“But it’s not enough to add more reviewers because we can’t rely on reports alone to catch bad content. Engineers across the company are building AI tools that help us identify abusive posts,” said the social media giant.

Not only Myanmar, activists in Sri Lanka have argued that the lack of local moderators — specifically moderators fluent in the Sinhalese language spoken by the country’s Buddhist majority — had allowed hate speech run wild on the platform.

Facebook said it is working with a network of independent organisations to identify hate posts.

“We are initially focusing our work on countries where false news has had life or death consequences. These include Sri Lanka, India, Cameroon, and the Central African Republic as well as Myanmar,” said the company.

Tech

Top tech firms halt Hong Kong’s requests for users” data

Twitter said in an earlier statement that it has “grave concerns and is committed to protecting the people using our services and their freedom of expression”.

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San Francisco, July 7 : Facebook, WhatsApp, Google, Twitter and Telegram have said they will not process official requests from the Hong Kong authorities to hand over user data for the time being, in the wake of China imposing a controversial new National Security Law in Hong Kong.

According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, WhatsApp decided to pause the review of Hong Kong government requests for user data “pending further assessment” of China”s national-security law for territory.

Facebook is “pausing” such reviews “pending further assessment of the impact of the National Security Law, including formal human rights due diligence and consultations with human rights experts,” a WhatsApp spokeswoman was quoted as saying in the report.

Google and Twitter said they suspended their reviews of data requests from Hong Kong authorities immediately after the law went into effect.

Twitter cited “grave concerns” about the law”s implications.

Dubai-based Telegram Group said in a statement that it doesn”t intend to process “any data requests related to its Hong Kong users until an international consensus is reached in relation to the ongoing political changes in the city.”

A company spokesperson said it “has never shared any data with the Hong Kong authorities in the past.”

The people in Hong Kong fear that the new law can send them to jail on the basis of their social media posts and messages.

After China imposed a controversial new National Security Law in Hong Kong, tech giants now face a free speech test in the country.

The new law requires local authorities to take steps to supervise and regulate the city”s internet.

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Google-owned YouTube currently operate freely in Hong Kong, unlike China where the great Firewall has censored the US tech giants in mainland China.

Twitter said in an earlier statement that it has “grave concerns and is committed to protecting the people using our services and their freedom of expression”.

The Hong Kong government last week said the US has no right to intervene in the city”s internal affairs, after the American Senate unanimously passed a punitive sanctions bill in reaction to the controversial new National Security Law imposed by China.

The national security law, which Beijing put into effect and made public last week on the eve of the 23rd anniversary of Hong Kong”s handover from British to Chinese rule, criminalises a wide range of behaviour and acts under four categories of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with a foreign power.

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Disaster

7 killed in Karachi rain

The provincial disaster management authority of Sindh province, where Karachi is located, issued a warning of urban flooding in parts of the city and other areas.

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Pakistan Rains Flood
Pakistan Rains (File Picture)

Karachi, July 7 : At least seven people were killed and several others injured in Pakistan’s Karachi city in separate rain-related incidents.

After weeks of extremely hot weather, the residents of Karachi on Monday found solace when the first monsoon rain in the ongoing summer season hit the port city of over 20 million people, but at the same time the unfortunate incidents of electrocution, roof collapse and uprooting of trees and billboards claimed seven lives, reports Xinhua news agency.

According to the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD), rainfall up to 43 mm was recorded in the city, and it wreaked havoc in the areas where it was coupled with heavy winds.

Rescue teams said that the rainwater inundated several low-lying areas of the city, creating trouble for the residents.

Road traffic was also disrupted in several areas after rainwater submerged highways and other roads.

Electric poles also uprooted in several areas of the city, resulting in hours-long suspension of electricity supply.

The provincial disaster management authority of Sindh province, where Karachi is located, issued a warning of urban flooding in parts of the city and other areas.

The authority said heavy rainfall is expected in the province due to the monsoon and the residents and concerned departments of the urban areas should remain alert and take necessary precautionary measures during the forecast periods to avert any unfortunate incident.

The PMD forecast more rains on the same pattern in the city for the next two days.

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Disaster

Situation ‘really not good’ as new COVID-19 cases break records: Fauci

The worst-hit states due to the fresh outbreak are California, Arizona, Texas and Florida.

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Anthony Fauci

Washington, July 7 : America’s top infectious diseases expert Anthony Fauci warned “the current state is really not good” due to the fresh spike in the number of COVID-19 cases in the country.

“We had been in a situation (where) we were averaging about 20,000 new cases a day,” Xinhua news agency quoted Fauci, Director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, as saying on Monday.

In a livestream with Director of the US National Institutes of Health, Francis Collins, Fauci said a series of circumstances associated with various states and cities trying to open up, in the sense of getting back to some form of normality, has led to a situation where the country now has record-breaking cases.

He said the average age of people getting infected now is 15 years younger than it was a few months ago, but young people must understand they are not “in a vacuum”.

“Innocently, they could infect someone who’d infect someone, and then all of a sudden someone’s grandmother or grandfather, or aunt who”s getting chemotherapy for breast cancer gets infected.

“You’re part of the propagation of the pandemic so it’s your responsibility to yourself, as well as to society, to avoid infection,” Fauci added.

The US currently accounts for the world”s highest number of infections and fatalities at 2,935,008 and 130,277, respectively, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

The worst-hit states due to the fresh outbreak are California, Arizona, Texas and Florida.

Nearly two dozen states have paused their reopenings to combat the virus spread while others have taken extra measures to keep it out of their borders, said a CNN report.

New York, New Jersey and Connecticut issued a travel advisory that requires people arriving from eight states with high coronavirus rates to quarantine for two weeks.

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