Asian innovators fight hate and lies online while tech giants fall short

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VITAL LOCAL INITIATIVES

While the impact of online hate speech has already been documented in several Asian countries in recent years, analysts say tech companies have not increased resources to improve content moderation, particularly in local languages.

United Nations human rights investigators said in 2018 that use of Facebook had played a key role in spreading hate speech that fueled violence against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar in 2017, following a military crackdown on the community. minority.

Facebook said at the time that it was tackling misinformation and investing in technology and Burmese speakers.

In Indonesia, “significant hate speech” online targets religious and racial minority groups, as well as LGBTQ+ people, with paid bots and trolls spreading disinformation aimed at deepening divisions, an Article 19 report found in June.

“Social media companies… need to work with local initiatives to tackle the huge challenges of controlling problematic content online,” said Sherly Haristya, a researcher who helped write the report on content moderation in Indonesia with Article 19.

One such local initiative is the Indonesian nonprofit organization Mafindo, which with the backing of Google runs workshops to train citizens, from students to housewives, in fact-checking and spotting misinformation.

Mafindo, or Masyarakat Anti Fitnah Indonesia, the Indonesian Anti-Defamation Society, provides training in reverse image search, video metadata, and geolocation to help verify information.

The nonprofit organization has a professional fact-checking team that, with the help of citizen volunteers, has debunked at least 8,550 hoaxes.

Mafindo has also created a Bahasa-language fact-checking chatbot called Kalimasada, introduced just before the 2019 elections. It is accessed through WhatsApp and has some 37,000 users, a small part of the more than 80 million users of Facebook. Country WhatsApp.

“Older adults are particularly vulnerable to hoaxes, misinformation and fake news on platforms, as they have limited tech skills and mobility,” said Santi Indra Astuti, president of Mafindo.

“We teach them to use social networks, to protect personal data and to look critically at current issues: during COVID it was misinformation about vaccines, and in 2019 it was about elections and political candidates,” he said.

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