Empowering media to tackle hate speech and reduce violence in Myanmar

My goal was to empower journalists to tackle the problem of hate speech online in Myanmar. This required broader social awareness and I’m encouraged by fledgeling efforts to create change on several fronts. Firstly, I remain a part of a collaborative effort between Facebook, Myanmar civil society and academic experts to identify culturally appropriate ways of reporting hate speech through the platform. In Myanmar, a local initiative known as Panzagar (flower speech) promoting peaceful speech has started a national dialogue on the issue. Building on that work, four local organizations in Myanmar have expressed interest in a joint project to monitor and track hate speech both on and offline.

Aela Callan

Knight Talk: Aela Callan

In this short talk, Aela Callan describes the dangerous hate speech in Myanmar's newly free media and her work to help address it, while protecting free speech.

I have received advice and help from the following people this year:


  • Media has an important role to play in shifting the social norms around what kind of speech society deems acceptable. In an environment where constructive and peaceful speech is encouraged, people are empowered to speak out against extreme views.
  • More academic research is needed to define and categorize what constitutes hate speech in Myanmar and how to effectively counteract it without threatening freedom of speech. Myanmar is a compelling case study to explore and test new methodologies, since it is the first country to abolish media censorship in the digital age.
  • Social media companies need faster ways to respond to unintended consequences of the use of their technologies. Greater connectivity in developing countries brings both good and bad outcomes. It should be incumbent upon platform owners and internet providers to respond to dangerous speech in other languages in the same way they would if it were in English.

This is the result of a year long effort to resolve a challenge to journalism. Learn more about this challenge during the exploration and refinement phases of the process.