Facebook apologizes to Myanmar rights groups

Facebook apologizes to Myanmar rights groups
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Facebook on Friday apologized for not crediting the role of rights groups in Myanmar in combating hate speech on the social media platform.

The company has faced criticism for not doing more to prevent the spread of messages inciting ethnic violence and targeting minorities in that country.

CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergFight looms over national privacy law Facebook teaming with nonprofits to fight fake election news China may be copying Facebook to build an intelligence weapon MORE addressed the issue in a recent interview with Vox editor-at-large Ezra Klein, claiming that Facebook's own "systems" had detected and stopped such messages from circulating. 

That prompted a letter from six Myanmar-based nongovernmental organizations, saying that they had tried for days to get Facebook to address the messages, which were sent to both Buddhists and Muslims in the country to try and incite violence between the groups.

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"We believe your system, in this case, was us — and we were far from systematic," the letter reads. 

In a statement to BuzzFeed News on Friday, a spokesperson for Facebook apologized that Zuckerberg did not acknowledge the role of the organizations in bringing the messages to the company's attention. 

"We should have been faster and are working hard to improve our technology and tools to detect and prevent abusive, hateful or false content," the spokesperson said. "We are rolling out the ability to report content in Messenger, and have added more Burmese language reviewers to handle reports from across all our services."

Facebook is widely used in Myanmar and has faced scrutiny for not doing enough to crack down on hate speech against minority groups in the country. 

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims have fled the country since the summer to escape persecution by the Burmese military. The United Nations and several countries have accused the military of ethnic cleansing. 

U.N. human rights experts investigating the crisis in Myanmar have said that Facebook played a significant role in spreading hate speech in the country.