LIRNEasia’s research on ICTs and gender in Myanmar was presented at the Myanmar Digital Rights Forum that took place on 18 and 19 January 2019 in Yangon.
India keeps shutting down the Internet. This necessarily involves shutting down Facebook. Few pay attention. Sri Lanka has never shut down the Internet. But it restricted access to some social media including Facebook in March 2018.
We’ve been thinking about the implications of differential access to data for a while. Here‘s a detailed discussion: Some scholars said Facebook’s recent privacy changes may have gone too far by also cutting off academics who behaved responsibly. “Academics would argue that we need access to primary data,” said Dr. Nielsen of Oxford. He said the changes might lead to an asymmetry, with internal Facebook researchers accumulating mounds of data while outside academics would not.
If anything, it is Facebook that is a bigger culprit or conduit for hate speech, not so much the picture-less/video-less Zero Rated Facebook version. So suddenly celebrating the pull-out/failure of the Zero Rated Facebook, while the full version of Facebook is alive and well is rather misguided.
I do not appear to have blogged about it, but the first time I brought up this issue was at the 2013 (Bali) or 2014 (Istanbul) IGF. If consent-based privacy rules are imposed on the existing concentrations of behavioral transaction-based data, there will be considerable to negative implications for SMEs and start ups on one side and for those engaged in data analytics for the public good. It is interesting that the Economist is highlighting this issue: Along with other tech firms, it should create an industry ombudsman whose jobs would include making access to platforms easier for independent researchers. Instead of opening up, however, the risk is that Facebook will throw up walls: its decision to kick third-party data-brokers off the platform has the convenient effect of both protecting users’ data and entrenching its power as a source of those data.
LIRNEasia and CPRsouth were created to contribute to better laws, policies, regulation and implementation in the emerging Asia Pacific. There are many ways to do this, including the actual training of the relevant people within government. For example, from 2013 onward we have conducted multiple training and awareness programs for legislators and regulatory staff in Myanmar. To say that Myanmar legislators need help with understanding new technologies and new business models is one thing. To say that members of the US Congress do is quite something else.
I probably learned more useful things from working as a lowly assistant for an expert witness in US v AT&T, than from my formal education. So I was all agog when the next big anti-trust case came up, US v Microsoft. But that was also when I began to realize the need rethink of the core concepts. This article in Medium (I hope it will not be paywalled) makes an insightful comparison between the tying arguments that were central the Microsoft case and the loose claims of monopoly being bandied about in relation to Facebook now. While some of the questions and concerns echoed those the senators had two decades ago, Microsoft and Facebook’s situation could not be more different.
I said in my NYT piece that banning was not the answer. We needed to work with them to address the very real problems that are facing our societies, based in part on the accelerant qualities of social media. Who is “we”? Not just governments, but also researchers (I cited some MIT research) and civil society. But that was before Aleksandr Kogan.
I first started talking about Facebook being the Internet for many people in our countries in 2012. But the story by Quartz is what really hit the big time. Now it is appearing in debates around the debate de jour: Should we all just leave Facebook? That may sound attractive but it is not a viable solution. In many countries, Facebook and its products simply are the internet.
After a weeklong blackout, the Sri Lankan government lifted its nationwide ban on social media on Thursday. Facebook and several other platforms had been shut down after days of violence targeting Muslims in the Kandy district, a popular destination for tourists and pilgrims.
Online hate speech has become commonplace in Myanmar. PEN Myanmar (2015) analysed posts from Facebook over a year, noting that the incidence of hate speech pertaining to a topic was often tied to a controversial, topical event– the appearance of posts regarding politics, for instance, increased during the elections held in November 2015. LIRNEasia and MIDO, along with Kantar TNS Myanmar, were on the field carrying out qualitative research in Myanmar in late August 2017 when conflict in the Rakhine region escalated. Many accounts revolved around the prevailing conflict came up in the interviews with 95 respondents in Yangon, Mandalay and Myitkyina. A few respondents openly expressed their displeasure regarding the situation, and spoke of how the posts they encountered online pushed them to want to incite violence.
I was asked by the FT about the Facebook shut-down decision of the government. Here is my response: It is true that Facebook as well as Viber, etc. have been, and are being, extensively used by various extremist groups to organize. The climate for this conflagration was created by mainstream media such as Divaina, which gave coverage to hate speech as well as by hate speech messages that were circulated among their circles of friends and family without central direction by members of the majority community using social media, not limited to Facebook. The root cause of the problem lies in this insidious spread of falsehoods and hate over multiple years, not solely in the specific messages being communicated now.
Nothing really new in my opinion, as the kind referral surmised. Asia is now Facebook’s biggest user base. That has given the company unprecedented political sway across the continent, where it inadvertently shapes the media consumption of hundreds of millions of people. The impacts are amplified in the region because vast swathes of relatively new internet users turn to Facebook first as their primary gateway to the rest of the web. Meanwhile, it’s become clear that the attitudes and policies the Menlo Park-based company adopted when it was primarily a U.
Just a few days ago, I wrote about an Australian scholar expressing skepticism about the importance of Facebook as a news channel. I referred to Pew Research on the subject from 2016. Now the 2017 results are in: As of August 2017, two-thirds (67%) of Americans report that they get at least some of their news on social media – with two-in-ten doing so often, according to a new survey from Pew Research Center. This is a modest increase since early 2016, when (during the height of the presidential primaries) 62% of U.S.
I was amused to hear a senior scholar from Australia questioning a claim in a CPRsouth paper that Facebook was a source of news. In Myanmar, of all places. In his defense, I guess he was not aware of the LIRNEasia demand-side results on how people in Myanmar actually get their news. I’ve been using CPA survey data in my writing and speaking in Sri Lanka to show that the trend is for young people to get their news on Facebook. But is it different in developed countries?
We love that people read our research. But we would love it more if they try to do justice to how real people use the Internet.