KARACHI: The total content restricted in Pakistan by social media giant Facebook doubled between July and December 2018, according to the platform’s latest transparency report released on Friday.
Facebook restricted 4,174 items within Pakistan during the second half of 2018, as compared to 2,203 pieces from the first half of the year.
After India (17,713 items restricted), which topped the list of countries where the platform restricted maximum content, Pakistan ranked second followed by Brazil (4,026).
PM’s focal person claims over 35,000 posts suspended by platform for hate speech in past six months
According to the breakdown of the content restricted in Pakistan, Facebook suspended 3,811 posts, 343 pages and groups, 10 profiles and one album. On Instagram, the platform restricted a total of nine items — seven posts and two accounts.
Facebook said it restricted content in Pakistan for violating local laws prohibiting blasphemy, anti-judiciary content, defamation, and condemnation of the country’s independence.
The government’s requests to Facebook also spiked in the period under review, as the authorities sent 1,752 data requests and sought data of 2,360 users/accounts. In the first half, the government had sent 1,233 requests to Facebook.
Facebook responds to government requests for data in accordance with applicable law and its terms of service. The platform complied with 51 per cent of the government requests.
The platform also accepts government requests to preserve account information pending receipt of formal legal process.
“When we receive a preservation request, we will preserve a temporary snapshot of the relevant account information but will not disclose any of the preserved records unless and until we receive formal and valid legal process,” it explained.
During July-Dec 2018, the Pakistan government sent 488 preservation requests as opposed to 430 in the first half and specified 709 users/accounts compared to 580 to the platform.
Globally, in the second half of 2018, government requests for user data increased by 7pc from 103,815 to 110,634. Of the total volume, the United States continues to submit the highest number of requests, followed by India, the United Kingdom, Germany and France.
The volume of content restrictions based on local laws also increased globally by 135pc from 15,337 to 35,972.
The report also reported on temporary internet disruptions that impacted the availability of Facebook products.
“In the second half of 2018, we identified 53 disruptions of Facebook services in nine countries, compared to 48 disruptions in eight countries in the first half of 2018. This half, India accounted for 85 per cent of total new global disruptions,” it added.
Over 35,000 posts removed
“We are closely working with Facebook to crack down on hate speech and impersonation. In the past six months, over 35,000 posts were suspended by the platform for hate speech alone,” Prime Minister’s Focal Person on Digital Media Arslan Khalid told Dawn.
The government representative said that 60pc of the content restricted involved hate campaigns by religious groups, particularly pertaining to the Aasia Bibi case. Another 100 profiles were reported to the platform by the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) for impersonation, he added.
When approached, Facebook did not confirm or deny the government claims.
However, in its third Community Standards Enforcement Report released on Thursday, the platform said it removed 4m million posts (65pc) globally for pushing hate speech between Jan-March 2018. Till a year ago, only 38pc (2.5m) content was identified as hate speech by the social media giant.
“The safety of our community in Pakistan is absolutely vital to us. Within our Community Standards, we have clear rules against hate speech and incitement to violence, and our policies also prohibit individuals and organisations who engage in violence or organised hate to have a presence on our services,” a Facebook spokesperson told Dawn by email.
Facebook defines hate as material that directly attacks people based on protected characteristics like race, ethnicity, national origin and religious affiliation. It does not look to political issues or the reason for hate speech.
Despite having 15,000 dedicated content reviewers based around the world to review content in over 50 languages — including Urdu — the company acknowledged in its report that it still struggled to proactively spot hate speech.
Although posts containing hate speech were among the most appealed types of content, they were the least likely to be restored. Facebook reversed itself 152,000 times out of the 1.1m appeals it heard related to hate speech.
As opposed to terrorist propaganda, nearly all of it was removed from the platform before a user reported it; just over a third of the hate speech content had to be reported to be removed.
In just the first three months of this year, the company took action against 5.4m pieces of content that included child sexual exploitation, 6.4m pieces of terrorist propaganda, and 1.76bn pieces of spam, among other banned content.
Facebook also axed a record of 2.2 billion fake accounts in the first three months of 2019, nearly double the 1.2bn removed during the fourth quarter of 2018. The social media giant estimated that 5pc of its 2.4 billion monthly active accounts are fake.
Between October 2018 and March 2019 alone, the company removed 3bn fake accounts, almost all of them within minutes of creation.
“For fake accounts, the amount of accounts we took action on increased due to automated attacks by bad actors who attempt to create large volumes of accounts at one time,” Guy Rosen, Facebook’s vice president for integrity, said in a blog post.
Facebook also reported progress in efforts to prevent the social network from being used for illegal sales of drugs or guns. It “took action” in the quarter against 900,000 pieces of content related to drug sales, of which some 83 percent was detected by software.