Comparing ‘Hate’ on Facebook: Evidence from Southeast Asia

Dr Aim Sinpeng1

1University Of Sydney, University of Sydney, Australia

Where is hate speech on Facebook? Who produces hate and to what end? This paper provides original analysis of hate speech against LGBTQ communities in the Philippines, Myanmar and Indonesia. Based on empirical analysis of both restricted and publicly available data on Facebook, this paper examines the presence and extent to which hate speech could be found on LGBTQ civil society groups and their advocates. I find that hate speech that violates Facebook’s community standards are widespread across the three cases. The nature and type of hate speech, however, differs. Hate speech is most prevalent in the Philippine case due to the politicisation of the issue as a result of an ongoing legislative effort to enact a new pro-LGBTQ bill. More bots and fake accounts were also noted in the Philippines. In the case of Indonesia, hate speech was commonplace but in fewer quantities and less related to current politics. Myanmar presented the least depoliticised anti-LGBTQ hate on Facebook. These results clearly demonstrate the failures of Facebook to detect hate speech against LGBTQ communities on its platforms, despite such speech violating its own policy. Interviews with affected civil society organisations have also demonstrated the deleterious effects hate speech have on their advocacy.


Dr Aim Sinpeng is a lecturer in comparative politics at the University of Sydney. Her research focuses on social media and politics in Southeast Asia. She was recently awarded a grant from Facebook to study hate speech in the Asia Pacific. She is the co-founder of the Sydney Cyber Security Network and a Thailand Coordinator for the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre. Her publications include peer review articles in Pacific Affairs, Journal of Information Technology & Politics, Media, Culture & Society, Journal of East Asian Studies and Contemporary Southeast Asia among others. She is also the author of “Opposing Democracy in the Digital Age: The Yellow Shirts in Thailand” (University of Michigan Press, forthcoming).


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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