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In Pakistan, man jailed for 13 years over ‘Facebook hate speech’

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Lahore: In a shocking case, a man in Pakistan has been sent to prison for 13 years by an anti-terrorism court for allegedly posting ‘sectarian hate speech’ on Facebook, a move that drew flak from rights activist.

32-year-old Saqlain Haidar, a Shia Muslim and an hotelier in the city of Chiniot in Pakistani Punjab was also fined Rs 250, 000 for “posting hateful material against companions of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)”, an official of the Counter Terrorism Department said while requesting anonymity, The Express Tribune reported.

Confirming the incident, local counter-terrorism official Abdul Majeed said, “The convict was arrested on October 27 after locals complained about him and he was charged for spreading sectarian hatred under various clauses of the anti-terrorism act.”

Bytes for All, a human rights group, expressed its deep concern over Haidar’s case.

“We are extremely concerned that an anti-terrorism court has been used to hear a case apparently related to online speech rather than to any violent activities.”

Ironically, banned terrorist groups like the Taliban and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi continue to spread hatred on social media without any fear.

It was the first time someone was convicted for posting ‘sectarian material’ on Facebook, but that blasphemy charges were often brought against social media users, Bytes for All added.

(With inputs from agencies)

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How To Deal With Online Hate Speech: A Detailed Guide By Facebook

Critics of the company, however, said Zuckerberg hasn't gone far enough to address the inherent problems of Facebook, which has 2 billion users.

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Facebook, India, Fake News, Hate Speech
A television photographer shoots the sign outside of Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. VOA

Facebook says it is getting better at proactively removing hate speech and changing the incentives that result in the most sensational and provocative content becoming the most popular on the site.

The company has done so, it says, by ramping up its operations so that computers can review and make quick decisions on large amounts of content with thousands of reviewers making more nuanced decisions.

In the future, if a person disagrees with Facebook’s decision, he or she will be able to appeal to an independent review board.

Facebook “shouldn’t be making so many important decisions about free expression and safety on our own,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a call with reporters Thursday.

Facebook, India, Fake News, Hate Speech
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg delivers the keynote address at a Facebook developers conference in San Jose, California. VOA

But as Zuckerberg detailed what the company has accomplished in recent months to crack down on spam, hate speech and violent content, he also acknowledged that Facebook has far to go.

“There are issues you never fix,” he said. “There’s going to be ongoing content issues.”

Company’s actions

In the call, Zuckerberg addressed a recent story in The New York Times that detailed how the company fought back during some of its biggest controversies over the past two years, such as the revelation of how the network was used by Russian operatives in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The Times story suggested that company executives first dismissed early concerns about foreign operatives, then tried to deflect public attention away from Facebook once the news came out.

Facebook, India, Fake News, Hate Speech
A Facebook panel is seen during the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, in Cannes, France. VOA

Zuckerberg said the firm made mistakes and was slow to understand the enormity of the issues it faced. “But to suggest that we didn’t want to know is simply untrue,” he said.

Zuckerberg also said he didn’t know the firm had hired Definers Public Affairs, a Washington, D.C., consulting firm that spread negative information about Facebook competitors as the social networking firm was in the midst of one scandal after another. Facebook severed its relationship with the firm.

“It may be normal in Washington, but it’s not the kind of thing I want Facebook associated with, which is why we won’t be doing it,” Zuckerberg said.

The firm posted a rebuttal to the Times story.

Content removed

Facebook said it is getting better at proactively finding and removing contentsuch as spam, violent posts and hate speech. The company said it removed or took other action on 15.4 million pieces of violent content between June and September of this year, about double what it removed in the prior three months.

Facebook, India, Fake News, Hate Speech
This photo shows a Facebook app icon on a smartphone in New York. VOA

But Zuckerberg and other executives said Facebook still has more work to do in places such as Myanmar. In the third quarter, the firm said it proactively identified 63 percent of the hate speech it removed, up from 13 percent in the last quarter of 2017. At least 100 Burmese language experts are reviewing content, the firm said.

One issue that continues to dog Facebook is that some of the most popular content is also the most sensational and provocative. Facebook said it now penalizes what it calls “borderline content” so it gets less distribution and engagement.

“By fixing this incentive problem in our services, we believe it’ll create a virtuous cycle: by reducing sensationalism of all forms, we’ll create a healthier, less-polarized discourse where more people feel safe participating,” Zuckerberg wrote in a post.

Also Read: Facebook to Establish an Independent Body to Moderate Content

Critics of the company, however, said Zuckerberg hasn’t gone far enough to address the inherent problems of Facebook, which has 2 billion users.

“We have a man-made, for-profit, simultaneous communication space, marketplace and battle space and that it is, as a result, designed not to reward veracity or morality but virality,” said Peter W. Singer, strategist and senior fellow at New America, a nonpartisan think tank, at an event Thursday in Washington, D.C. (VOA)