Facebook's Oversight Board has overturned the social media platform's decision to remove a post critical of the recent military coup in Myanmar.
A Facebook user, who appeared to be in Myanmar, posted on their timeline in April and discussed ways to limit financing to the country's military following the Feb. 1 coup. The post proposed that tax revenue be given to the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, a group of legislators opposed to the coup.
The post received about half a million views, and no Facebook users reported it.
Facebook translated a part of the user's post as "Hong Kong people, because the f**king Chinese tortured them, changed their banking to UK, and now (the Chinese) they cannot touch them."
The social media platform removed the post under its Hate Speech Community Standard, which prohibits content targeting a person or group of people based on their race, ethnicity, or national origin with "profane terms or phrases with the intent to insult."
Although four content reviewers agreed the post violated Facebook's rules, the Oversight Board considered the user's appeal, which stated the post was intended to "stop the brutal military regime."
"The Oversight Board has overturned Facebook's decision to remove a post in Burmese under its Hate Speech Community Standard," the board said in a statement. "The Board found that the post did not target Chinese people, but the Chinese state. Specifically, it used profanity to reference Chinese governmental policy in Hong Kong as part of a political discussion on the Chinese government’s role in Myanmar."
In announcing its decision, the board said the case highlighted "the importance of considering context" when enforcing Facebook policies.
"This is particularly relevant in Myanmar given the February 2021 coup and Facebook's key role as a communications medium in the country," the board said.
The post used a Burmese phrase, an overlap of identities/meanings between China the country and the Chinese people, that Facebook translated as being profane.
Content reviewers stated that because the user did not "clearly indicate that the term refers to the country/government of China," it determined that "the user is, at a minimum, referring to Chinese people."
The board, citing that the same word is used in Burmese to refer to a state and people from that state, determined the user was not targeting the Chinese people, but the Chinese state.
"Given that the post did not target people based on race, ethnicity, or national origin, but was aimed at a state, the Board found it did not violate Facebook's Hate Speech Community Standard," the board said.
The Oversight Board recommended that Facebook, "ensure that its Internal Implementation Standards are available in the language in which content moderators review content. If necessary to prioritize, Facebook should focus first on contexts where the risks to human rights are more severe."
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