At this point, it’s no secret that Facebook bears some responsibility for the toxicity in the world, as the social media platform has been heavily used in recent years for the widespread transmission of hate speech and misinformation. In one of his trademark deep dives, on Sunday’s new Last Week Tonight, John Oliver took a look in particular how Facebook — which he notes is “the worst place to wish happy birthday to a friend, other than a funeral” — has been affecting countries outside of the United States.
The country of Myanmar (formerly Burma) in particular, has been hit especially hard by Mark Zuckerberg’s “move fast and break things” mantra for his company. As Oliver explains, in 2013, just 1.2 percent Myanmar citizens had internet access, however thanks in part to Facebook coming preinstalled on smart phones, now roughly 18 million Myanmarese people are using the platform — even using the terms “Facebook” and “internet” interchangeably.
Suddenly, everyone in Myanmar is now glued to their phones, as Oliver summed up the feelings of one Myanmarese teacher who dismissed the social media platform as a “toilet”:
Look, I get that he’s annoyed, but calling Facebook a toilet is a little unfair to toilets because they make shit go away, whereas Facebook retains shit, disseminates shit to your acquaintances and reminds you of shit from seven years ago, all while allowing corporations to put their shit in front of you. What I’m saying is there’s a purity and integrity to toilets that Facebook seriously lacks.
Given the reliance by those in Myanmar to get their news on Facebook is particularly troubling, as the country in embroiled in ongoing, violent conflicts between Hindus and Rohingya Muslims. In 2017, the country executed what’s believed to be about 10,000 Rohingya Muslims, with another 750,000 fleeing to Bangladesh.
And due to language and cultural barriers, it’s been an uphill battle for Facebook to police what type of content gets shared in Myanmar. Even with recent advances, the company is still nowhere close to being able to get things under control.
Look, I am not saying that the challenges Facebook is facing are not significant,” Oliver says, summarizing all of the company’s problems, in the crux of the segment. “But for a company that moves fast and breaks things, they have sure moved slowly in trying to fucking fix them.”
“And until they do, it is painfully obvious that everybody should be treating everything on the site with extreme skepticism and see Facebook for what it actually is,” he continues. “A fettered swamp of mistruths and outright lies, interspersed with the occasional reminder of a dead pet. That’s it.”