While questioning Zuckerberg, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont cited one of the most infamous examples of where Facebook’s policies failed.
The company was accused of helping fuel “genocide” in Myanmar, where its platforms were used to spread hate speech and promote violence against the country’s Rohingya Muslim minority. Facebook acknowledged in 2018 that it had not done enough to prevent the violence.
Leahy said he was “deeply concerned” about Facebook’s role in Myanmar, and acknowledged that Facebook had taken down dozens of accounts linked to Myanmar’s military that promote anti-Rohingya content.
“I compliment you for doing that but the Myanmar military just turned around and created new accounts that promote the same content,” Leahy said. “So…in some way you’ve got a whack-a-mole problem here.”
Zuckerberg noted that Facebook prohibited certain members of the military and other dangerous individuals from making new accounts, but he compared Facebook’s effort to crack down on hate speech to a city’s efforts to crack down on crime.
“These kinds of integrity problems are not ones that there’s a silver bullet,” he said. “You will always be working to help minimize the prevalence of harm in the same way that a city will never eliminate all crime, you try to reduce it…and have it be as little as possible, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
The oft-cited Myanmar example highlights just how Facebook and other social networks’ battle against misinformation often play out in far more sinister ways outside the United States, particularly in developing countries. In India — home to Facebook’s biggest user base — the company now faces similar accusations of hate speech and political bias, with government committees examining its role in religious riots in New Delhi earlier this year.
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