The lawsuit says that Facebook failed to properly moderate hate posts which called for the “extermination” of the Rohingya people in Myanmar.
A group of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar have filed a lawsuit against Facebook parent company Meta Platforms Inc., claiming the social media outlet facilitated encouraged violence by failing to remove anti-Rohingya hate speech from.
According to Reuters, the class action was filed in a California court on Monday.
The lawsuit, led by law firms Edelson PC and Fields PLLC, alleges that Facebook’s moderation policies led to real violence being perpetrated against Rohingyas in Myanmar.
DW.com notes that the lawsuit suggests that Facebook is largely responsible for the atrocities committed against Myanmar’s Muslim minority group.
“While various incidences of violence occurred periodically for years, nothing could prepare the Rohingya, or the international community, for what was to come after Facebook entered the picture in 2012,” the lawsuit states.
Specifically, the Rohingya plaintiffs assert that Facebook’s content-pushing algorithms, coupled with poor moderation practice, led to anti-Rohingya content being disseminated to the point it encouraged violence.
Reuters reports that, in 2018, Facebook hosted more than 1,000 posts, comments, and images attacking Rohingya Muslims; almost all of them were written in Myanmar’s local language, Burmese.
Some of the posts called Rohingyas, along with other Muslims, “dogs,” “drug dealers,” and “rapists,” and proposed they should be shot or otherwise “exterminated.”
Facebook, says the lawsuit, either failed or refused to take action against individuals and organizations using the social media platform to advocate violence against the Rohingya.
Attacks against the Rohingya escalated in 2017, when Myanmar military forces established a “troll army” to promote what it called “clearance operations.”
Tens of thousands of Rohingya were killed in the so-called clearance operations, while hundreds of thousands more were displaced into neighboring Bangladesh.
“Families were destroyed, childhoods were lost, lives were ruined, and entire communities were erased from the face of the earth,” the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit further claims that Facebook knowingly profits atop hate speech, even when it comes at a cost to victimized communities.
“Facebook has long been aware that hateful, outraged, and politically extreme content (especially content attacking a perceived “out-group”) is oxygen to the community’s blood,” the lawsuit adds.
However, the plaintiffs—along with other social media critics—say that Facebook has ignored its own problems to bolster and protect its profits.
DW.com notes that, earlier this year, whistleblower Frances Haugen released a “trove of internal documents” showing that Facebook has found that its platforms harm society, but has chosen to prioritize prosperity above correcting its flaws.