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Oversight board orders Facebook to restore post critical of Myanmar coup

Victor Barreiro Jr.
Oversight board orders Facebook to restore post critical of Myanmar coup

FACEBOOK. A 3D-printed Facebook logo is seen placed on a keyboard in this illustration taken March 25, 2020

Dado Ruvic/Reuters

The post, made in April 2021, is originally taken down for violating rules against racial hate speech, but appears to have been the victim of a translation discrepancy

The Facebook Oversight Board on Wednesday, August 11, ordered Facebook to reinstate a post critical of the Myanmar coup, as well as the regime and its ties to China.

The post, made in April 2021, was originally taken down for violating rules against racial hate speech, specifically against Chinese people.

While not flagged as being offensive, it was “automatically selected as a part of a sample and sent to a human reviewer to be used for classifier training” for improving the flagging algorithms.

In its ruling, the Oversight Board said the context of the statement – in this case a specific word in the Burmese language – had to be taken into account.

The Oversight Board said, “Facebook translated the supposedly violating part of the user’s post as ‘Hong Kong people, because the fucking Chinese tortured them, changed their banking to UK, and now (the Chinese) they cannot touch them.'”

It added, “The post used the Burmese phrase ‘$တရုတ်,’ which Facebook translated as “fucking Chinese” (or ‘sout ta-yote’). According to Facebook, the word “ta-yote” “is perceived culturally and linguistically as an overlap of identities/meanings between China the country and the Chinese people.”

Because the user didn’t indicate if he was referring to China’s government or the Chinese people, it was determined at the time of the takedown that “the user is, at a minimum, referring to Chinese people.”

The Oversight Board, however, sided with the poster after determining the context was referring to the Chinese state rather than any particular people from China.

“As the same word is used in Burmese to refer to a state and people from that state, context is key to understanding the intended meaning,” the Oversight Board wrote. It added the Oversight Board’s translators “indicated that, in this case, the word ‘ta-yote’ referred to a state” and had terms “commonly used by Myanmar’s government and the Chinese embassy to address each other. “

The Facebook Oversight Board did not elaborate on why it took a number of months to reach a decision on the April post.

The decision on the post is available here. – Rappler.com

Victor Barreiro Jr.

Victor Barreiro Jr is part of Rappler's Central Desk. An avid patron of role-playing games and science fiction and fantasy shows, he also yearns to do good in the world, and hopes his work with Rappler helps to increase the good that's out there.