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Facebook apologises after Myanmar groups blast Mark Zuckerberg

In their letter the six local tech and human rights organisations said they were "surprised" to hear Zuckerberg "praise the effectiveness" of Facebook's systems in Myanmar

AFP/PTI  |  Yangon 

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook, fb
Mark Zuckerberg

on Friday apologised to groups who took issue with Mark Zuckerberg's defence of the platform's record on curbing roiling the country.

has been battered by allegations that its platform has helped fuel communal bloodshed in Myanmar, a mainly Buddhist country accused of waging an ethnic cleansing campaign against Rohingya Muslims.

On Thursday six organisations published an open letter criticising an interview Zuckerberg gave with Vox this week. In it he cited examples of both Buddhists and Muslims spreading "sensational" messages on that warned of imminent violence from the other community.

"That's the kind of thing where I think it is clear that people were trying to use our tools in order to incite real harm. Now, in that case, our systems detect that that's going on. We stop those messages from going through," Zuckerberg was quoted as saying.

In their letter the six local tech and human rights organisations said they were "surprised" to hear Zuckerberg "praise the effectiveness" of Facebook's systems in Myanmar.

"It took over four days from when the messages started circulating for the escalation to reach you," said the groups, who had flagged the content to Facebook.

"Far from being stopped, they spread in an unprecedented way, reaching country-wide and causing widespread fear and at least three violent incidents in the process."

When reached for a comment on Friday, a Facebook conceded the company was too slow in responding to reports about the incendiary messages.

"We should have been faster and are working hard to improve our and tools to detect and prevent abusive, hateful or false content," the told AFP by email.

"We are sorry that Mark did not make clearer that it was the groups in Myanmar who first reported these messages."

Facebook has also added more Myanmar-language reviewers and is rolling out the ability to report content in service, the added.

In late January Facebook removed the page of popular anti-Rohingya monk Wirathu. Last year it regulated the use of the word "kalar" which is considered derogatory against Muslims.

In their joint letter the local groups said Facebook's response to and vicious rumours in Myanmar has been "inadequate" for years, adding that their offers to help craft have gone unanswered.

They urged the to add reporting mechanisms to app, increase transparency, engage more with local stakeholders and draw on data and engineering teams to identify repeat offenders.

Facebook dwarfs all other in Myanmar, where it has become the chief channel for communication among both the public and government ministries.

But it has come under fire for allegedly helping broadcast ethnic in a fledgling democracy still emerging from decades of repressive junta rule.

Scrutiny has intensified in the wake of a bloody military campaign against the Rohingya that erupted last August, expelling some 700,000 of the minority to

In March the UN's special rapporteur to Myanmar Yanghee Lee said Facebook had morphed into a "beast" and had incited "a lot of violence and a lot of against the Rohingya or other ethnic minorities".

First Published: Fri, April 06 2018. 22:27 IST