Tackling hate speech on social media in the Asia-Pacific

Facebook has joined forces with Australian university experts to devise policy that better manages online harmful content and hate speech in the Asia-Pacific region.

Professor Katharine Gelber , Head of School for The University of Queensland’s Political Science and International Studies , will join colleague Dr Kirril Shields and University of Sydney researchers Dr Aim Sinpeng and Dr Fiona Martin on the 12 month project.

The study will look at what constitutes hate speech in different Asia Pacific jurisdictions and how well Facebook’s policies and procedures are able to identify and regulate this type of content.

Professor Gelber said although Facebook had taken significant steps to work with government and civil society in Europe to act on identifying and removing online hate speech, it was the first such venture in the Asia Pacific region.

“This project draws from extensive, relevant academic expertise to investigate how hate speech is defined in a range of Asian countries, how Facebook identifies and responds to it, and how it can improve its policies and procedures to better tackle hate networks,” she said.

“The Asia Pacific is a politically and culturally diverse region, and in some countries the legal definition of hate speech is quite different from those in Europe.”

The project will expand on work already conducted by Dr Shields and UQ’s Asia Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect on the legal regulation of hate speech and incitement in Asia.

“We will then work with Facebook to examine this material against scholarly understandings of how hate speech harms, and suggest possible improvements,” Professor Gelber said.

The team will map hate networks on sample Facebook pages in the focus countries of India, the Philippines, Indonesia, Myanmar and Australia.

“We aim to find key drivers of hate speech in each of the given networks and examine the factors that help drive its popularity and spread.”

Professor Gelber said by helping Facebook identify linguistically and culturally specific forms of hate speech in the Asian region, the team could suggest improvements to definitions of, and responses to hate speech, and improve the social network’s policy globally.

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