Rohingya refugees from Myanmar are suing Meta Platforms Inc, previously often called Facebook, for $150 billion over allegations that the social media company didn’t take motion in opposition to anti-Rohingya hate speech that contributed to violence.
A US class-action grievance, filed in California on Monday by legislation companies Edelson PC and Fields PLLC, argues that the company’s failures to police content material and its platform’s design contributed to real-world violence confronted by the Rohingya group.
In a coordinated motion, British legal professionals additionally submitted a letter of discover to Facebook’s London office.
Facebook didn’t reply to a Reuters request for remark concerning the lawsuit. The company has mentioned it was “too slow to prevent misinformation and hate” in Myanmar and has mentioned it has since taken steps to crack down on platform abuses within the area, together with banning the army from Facebook and Instagram after the Feb. 1 coup.
A Myanmar junta spokesman didn’t answer cellphone calls from Reuters looking for touch upon the authorized motion in opposition to Facebook.
In 2018, UN human rights investigators mentioned the usage of Facebook had performed a key function in spreading hate speech that fueled the violence.
A Reuters investigation that year, cited within the U.S. grievance, discovered greater than 1,000 examples of posts, feedback and pictures attacking the Rohingya and different Muslims on Facebook. Almost all have been in the primary native language, Burmese.
The invective included posts calling the Rohingya or different Muslims canine, maggots and rapists, steered they be fed to pigs, and urged they be shot or exterminated.
The posts have been tolerated despite Facebook guidelines that particularly prohibit attacking ethnic teams with “violent or dehumanising speech” or evaluating them to animals.
Facebook has mentioned it is protected against legal responsibility over content material posted by customers by a US web legislation often called Section 230, which holds that on-line platforms are usually not liable for content material posted by third events. The grievance says it seeks to use Myanmar legislation to the claims if Section 230 is raised as a protection.
Although U.S. courts can apply international legislation to instances the place the alleged harms and exercise by corporations passed off in different international locations, two authorized specialists interviewed by Reuters mentioned they didn’t know of a profitable precedent for international legislation being invoked in lawsuits in opposition to social media corporations the place Section 230 protections might apply.
Anupam Chander, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center, mentioned that invoking Myanmar legislation wasn’t “inappropriate.” But he predicted that “it’s unlikely to be successful,” saying that “it would be odd for Congress to have foreclosed actions under US law but permitted them to proceed under foreign law.”
More than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims fled Myanmar’s Rakhine state in August 2017 after a army crackdown that refugees mentioned included mass killings and rape. Rights teams documented killings of civilians and burning of villages.
Myanmar authorities say they have been battling an insurgency and deny finishing up systematic atrocities.
The International Criminal Court has opened a case into the accusations of crimes within the area. In September, a US federal decide ordered Facebook to launch information of accounts linked to anti-Rohingya violence in Myanmar that the social media large had shut down.
The new class-action lawsuit references claims by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, who leaked a cache of inside paperwork this year, that the company doesn’t police abusive content material in international locations the place such speech is prone to trigger probably the most hurt.
The grievance additionally cites latest media experiences, together with a Reuters report final month, that Myanmar’s army was utilizing faux social media accounts to have interaction in what’s extensively referred to within the army as “information combat.”
Mohammed Taher, a refugee dwelling within the camps in Bangladesh which can be dwelling to greater than one million Rohingya, mentioned Facebook had been extensively used to unfold anti-Rohingya propaganda.
“We welcome the move,” he mentioned by cellphone.