Rohingya refugees are suing for $ 150 billion, claiming that Facebook helped spread hate speech and incitement that led to physical violence against them. More than 700,000 of them fled to Bangladesh and over 10,000 were killed in an army raid in 2017. A post quoted in the lawsuit reads: “We must fight them as Hitler fought the Jews”
More than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims fled to Bangladesh and over 10,000 were killed when the Myanmar army raided Rakin State in 2017, an operation that was accompanied by village fires, mass rape and other atrocities against the civilian population. Following the events, which have since been described by the UN as genocide, an accusing finger has been pointed at Facebook for not preventing the spread of hate speech and incitement against the Rohingya. Yesterday (Monday) dozens of U.S. refugees filed a class action lawsuit against Meta, the parent company of Facebook, demanding $ 150 billion in compensation. A similar lawsuit is expected to be filed soon in the UK as well.
Prosecutors allege that Facebook allowed for years to spread hate speech and false and dangerous information about the Rohingya, and that the social network “was willing to trade their lives in exchange for better penetration of the small country market.” It was further alleged that the social network’s algorithms increased the spread of hate speech, that the company did not invest properly in content monitors and fact checkers who are familiar with the situation in Myanmar, and that Facebook did not bother to delete posts or accounts of incitement to violence.
Among other things, the plaintiffs cite harsh statements against the Rohingya, including a 2013 post in which it was written that “we must fight them as Hitler fought the Jews.” In another post, a Facebook user wrote: “Pour fuel and light a fire so they can meet Allah faster.” The lawsuit quotes Frances Haugen, a former Facebook employee who leaked tens of thousands of company documents, who previously claimed that the social network does not monitor offensive content in sensitive countries that need it.
The Rohingya are perceived in Myanmar as illegal immigrants and have suffered for decades from discrimination by the authorities and the public. In 2017, the army launched an operation against them following a series of attacks carried out by a rebel organization at police stations. However, the military claimed to have acted against the rebels and did not intentionally harm civilians.
Test for section 230
UN human rights investigators determined in 2018 that Facebook played a significant role in spreading hate speech that led to violence against the Rohingya, and an investigation by Reuters from that year demonstrated through more than a thousand posts, comments and photos how the Rohingya and other Muslims in Myanmar were continually attacked and defamed. On Facebook.
The social network has previously admitted that it was too slow in preventing the spread of hate speech and misinformation against the Rohingya, claiming that it has since taken steps to improve the situation and prevent misuse of the platform. After the military coup in Myanmar on February 1 this year, for example, the military was denied access to Facebook and Instagram.
If the lawsuit does go to court and does not end in a settlement, it is likely to put section 230 of the U.S. Media Fairness Act to the test, which gives social networks legal immunity from user utterances. him. The plaintiffs have announced that if Meta uses section 230 in the defense arguments, they are likely to require the court to apply the law in Myanmar to it. Legal experts told Reuters that while this was theoretically possible, there were no precedents. “It’s probably not going to work,” said Anofam Chander, a law professor at Georgetown University.