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Opinion: Understanding social media and conflict – Lanka Business Online

By Samidh Chakrabarti, Director of Product Management, Civic Integrity; and Rosa Birch, Director of Strategic Response, Facebook

At Facebook, a devoted, multidisciplinary group is concentrated on understanding the historic, political and technological contexts of nations in conflict. Today we’re sharing an replace on their work to take away hate speech, scale back misinformation and polarization, and inform individuals via digital literacy packages.

Last
week, we have been among the many hundreds who gathered at RightsCon, a world summit on human rights within the digital
age, the place we listened to and discovered from advocates, activists, teachers, and
civil society. It additionally gave our groups a chance to speak concerning the work
we’re doing to know and tackle the best way social media is utilized in nations
experiencing conflict. Today, we’re sharing updates on: 1) the devoted workforce
we’ve set as much as proactively forestall the abuse of our platform and shield
weak teams in future situations of conflict all over the world; 2)
elementary product modifications that try and restrict virality; and three) the
rules that inform our engagement with stakeholders all over the world.

About the Team

We
care about these points deeply and write at present’s submit not simply as
representatives of Facebook, but in addition as involved residents who’re dedicated
to defending digital and human rights and selling vibrant civic discourse.
Both of us have devoted our careers to working on the intersection of civics,
coverage and tech.

Last
yr, we arrange a devoted staff spanning product, engineering, coverage,
analysis and operations to raised perceive and handle the best way social media
is utilized in nations experiencing conflict. The individuals on this group have spent
their careers learning points like misinformation, hate speech, polarization
and misinformation. Many have lived or labored within the nations we’re targeted
on. Here are just some of them:

Ravi,
Research Manager
: With a PhD in social
psychology, Ravi has spent a lot of his profession
taking a look at how conflicts can drive division and polarization. At Facebook, Ravi analyzes consumer conduct knowledge and surveys to
perceive how content material that doesn’t violate our Community Standards — comparable to posts from gossip pages — can nonetheless sow division.
This evaluation informs how we scale back the attain and impression of polarizing posts
and feedback.

Sarah,
Program Manager
: Beginning as a
scholar in Cameroon,
Sarah has devoted almost a decade to understanding the position of know-how in
nations experiencing political and social conflict. In 2014, she moved to Myanmar to
analysis the challenges activists face on-line and to help group
organizations utilizing social media. Sarah helps Facebook reply to complicated
crises and develop lengthy-time period product options to stop abuse — for instance,
tips on how to render Burmese content material in a machine-readable format so our AI instruments can
higher detect hate speech.

Abhishek,
Research Scientist
: With a masters in
pc science and a doctorate in media principle, Abhishek focuses on points
together with the technical challenges we face in several nations and how greatest
to categorize several types of violent content material. For instance, analysis in Cameroon
revealed that some photographs of violence being shared on Facebook helped individuals
pinpoint — and keep away from — conflict areas. Nuances like this assist us think about the
ethics of various product options, like eradicating or decreasing the unfold of
sure content material.

Emilar,
Policy Manager
: Prior to becoming a member of
Facebook, Emilar spent greater than a decade engaged on human rights and social
justice points in Africa, together with as a
member of the group that developed the African Declaration on Internet Rights
and Freedoms. She joined the corporate to work on public coverage points in Southern Africa, together with the promotion of reasonably priced,
extensively obtainable web entry and human rights each on and offline.

Ali,
Product Manager
: Born and raised in Iran within the 1980s and 90s, Ali and his household
skilled violence and conflict firsthand as Iran
and Iraq
have been concerned in an eight-yr conflict. Ali was an early adopter of running a blog
and wrote about a lot of what he noticed round him in Iran. As an grownup, Ali acquired his
PhD in pc science however remained eager about geopolitical points. His
work on Facebook’s product workforce has allowed him to bridge his curiosity in
know-how and social science, effecting change by figuring out technical
options to root out hate speech and misinformation in a approach that accounts for
native nuances and cultural sensitivities.

Focus Areas

In
engaged on these points, civil society has given us invaluable enter on our
merchandise and packages. No one is aware of extra concerning the challenges in a given
group than the organizations and specialists on the bottom. We recurrently
solicit their enter on our merchandise, insurance policies and packages, and final week we published the
principles
that information our continued
engagement with exterior stakeholders.

In
the final yr, we visited nations resembling Lebanon,
Cameroon, Nigeria, Myanmar,
and Sri Lanka
to talk with affected communities in these nations, higher perceive how
they use Facebook, and consider what varieties of content material may promote
depolarization in these environments. These findings have led us to give attention to
three key areas: eradicating content material and accounts that violate our Community Standards, decreasing the unfold of borderline content material that has
the potential to amplify and exacerbate tensions and informing individuals
about our merchandise and the web at giant. To tackle content material which will lead
to offline violence, our staff is especially targeted on combating hate speech
and misinformation.

Removing Bad Actors and Bad Content

Hate speech isn’t allowed beneath our Community Standards. As we shared last year, eradicating this content material requires supplementing consumer reviews with AI that may proactively flag probably violating posts. We’re persevering with to enhance our detection in native languages comparable to Arabic, Burmese, Tagalog, Vietnamese, Bengali and Sinhalese. In the previous few months, we’ve been capable of detect and take away significantly extra hate speech than earlier than. Globally, we elevated our proactive fee — the % of the hate speech Facebook eliminated that we discovered earlier than customers reported it to us — from 51.5% in Q3 2018 to 65.four% in Q1 2019 [refer picture 1].

Statistical graph on violating content material actioned by Facebook

We’re
additionally utilizing new purposes of AI to extra successfully fight hate speech
on-line. Memes and graphics that violate our insurance policies, for instance, get added to
a photograph financial institution so we will mechanically delete comparable posts. We’re additionally utilizing AI
to determine clusters of phrases that may be utilized in hateful and offensive methods,
and monitoring how these clusters range over time and geography to remain forward of
native tendencies in hate speech. This permits us to take away viral textual content extra shortly.

Still,
we have now an extended option to go. Every time we need to use AI to proactively detect
probably violating content material in a brand new nation, we’ve to start out from scratch
and supply a excessive quantity of top of the range, regionally related examples to coach
the algorithms. Without this context-particular knowledge, we danger dropping language
nuances that have an effect on accuracy.

Globally,
in relation to misinformation, we reduce the spread of content material that’s been deemed false by third-get together
reality-checkers. But in nations with fragile info ecosystems, false information
can have extra critical penalties, together with violence. That’s why final yr we
up to date our international violence and
incitement policy
such that we now
take away misinformation that has the potential to contribute to imminent violence
or bodily hurt. To implement this coverage, we companion with civil society
organizations who will help us affirm whether or not content material is fake and has the
potential to incite violence or hurt.

Reducing Misinformation and Borderline Content

We’re additionally making elementary modifications to our merchandise to deal with virality and scale back the unfold of content material that may amplify and exacerbate violence and conflict. In Sri Lanka, we have now explored including friction to message forwarding so that folks can solely share a message with a sure variety of chat threads on Messenger. This is just like a change we made to WhatsApp earlier this year to scale back forwarded messages all over the world. It additionally delivers on consumer suggestions that most individuals don’t need to obtain chain messages [refer Image 2].

WhatsApp message forwarding decreased to only 5 individuals

And,
as our CEO Mark Zuckerberg
detailed last year
, we now have began to
discover how greatest to discourage borderline content material, or content material that toes the
permissible line with out crossing it. This is particularly true in nations
experiencing conflict as a result of borderline content material, a lot of which is
sensationalist and provocative, has the potential for extra critical penalties
in these nations.

We
are, for instance, taking a extra aggressive strategy towards individuals and teams
who commonly violate our insurance policies. In Myanmar, we now have began to scale back
the distribution of all content material shared by individuals who have demonstrated a
sample of posting content material that violates our Community Standards, an strategy
that we might roll out in different nations if it proves profitable in mitigating
hurt. In instances the place people or organizations extra instantly promote or
interact violence, we’ll ban them underneath our coverage towards harmful
people and organizations. Reducing distribution of content material is, nevertheless,
one other lever we will pull to fight the unfold of hateful content material and exercise.
 

We have additionally prolonged using synthetic intelligence to acknowledge posts which will include graphic violence and feedback which are probably violent or dehumanizing, so we will scale back their distribution whereas they bear evaluate by our Community Operations staff. If this content material violates our insurance policies, we’ll take away it. By limiting visibility on this approach, we hope to mitigate towards the danger of offline hurt and violence [refer Image three].

Action taken to discourage borderline content material

Giving People Additional Tools and Information

Perhaps
most significantly, we proceed to satisfy with and study from civil society who’re
intimately accustomed to developments and tensions on the bottom and are sometimes on the
entrance strains of complicated crises. To enhance communication and higher determine
probably dangerous posts, we now have constructed a brand new device for our companions to flag
content material to us immediately. We respect the burden and danger that this locations on
civil society organizations, which is why we’ve labored onerous to streamline the
reporting course of and make it safe and protected.

Our partnerships have
additionally been instrumental in selling digital literacy in nations the place many
individuals are new to the web. This week, we introduced a brand new program with GSMA
referred to as Internet One-on-One (1O1). The program, which we first launched in
Myanmar with the aim of reaching 500,000 individuals in three months, presents
one-on-one training periods that features a brief video on the advantages of the
web and tips on how to keep protected on-line. We plan to companion with different telecom
corporations and introduce comparable packages in different nations. In Nigeria, we
launched a 12-week digital literacy program for secondary faculty college students
referred to as Safe Online with Facebook. Developed in partnership with Re:Learn and
Junior Achievement Nigeria, this system has labored with college students at over 160
faculties and covers a mixture of on-line security, information literacy, wellness tips and
extra, all facilitated by a workforce of trainers throughout Nigeria.

What’s Next

We
know there’s extra to do to raised perceive the position of social media in
nations of conflict. We need to be a part of the answer in order that as we
mitigate abuse and dangerous content material, individuals can proceed utilizing our providers to
talk. In the wake of the horrific terrorist assaults in Sri Lanka, extra
than 1 / 4 million individuals used Facebook’s Safety Check to mark themselves
as protected and reassure family members. In the identical vein, hundreds of individuals in Sri Lanka used
our disaster response instruments to make gives and requests for assist. These use instances
— the great, the significant, the consequential — are ones that we need to
protect.

This is a few of the most necessary work being achieved at Facebook and we
absolutely acknowledge the gravity of those challenges. By tackling hate speech and
misinformation, investing in AI and modifications to our merchandise, and strengthening
our partnerships, we will proceed to make progress on these points across the
world.


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