Rohingya refugees are suing Meta Platforms – Facebook – in the US and UK because it failed to address hate speech, which eventually led to genocide.
Muslim minorities claim that the company employed algorithms to amplify hate speech against Rohingya and did not hire Burmese-, Rohingya or Rohingya speaking content moderators or local fact checks with an understanding the Myanmar political situation.
They also claim that the company failed to close down certain accounts, groups, or pages used in hate speech propagation or to encourage violence.
Mishcon deReya, who is handling the UK case says that Facebook’s recommendation algorithm invites users “like” pages sharing promilitary propaganda. However, associates and proxy members of the Myanmar military government are still making use of the platform.
We are seeking justice to the Rohingya. Tun Khin (president of the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK) says that this powerful company should be held accountable for allowing hateful anti-Rohingya propaganda to spread. This directly contributed to the outbreak of unimaginable violence.
“Facebook turned away while a genocide was being perpetrated – putting profit before the human rights of the Rohingya people.”
They are seeking damages of $150 billion. Many thousands of Rohingya Muslims were forced across Bangladeshi border after an attack by the military in 2017, resulting in 10,000 deaths.
A US class action lawsuit was filed in support of approximately 10,000 Rohingya living in the country. It cites posts that call for Rohingya being treated “the same way Hitler treated the Jews”. There are currently around 20 UK claimants.
Although Facebook admitted that it had been slow in preventing misinformation and hatred from Myanmar, the company is believed to be in the process of defending itself against Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. This section allows Facebook to avoid any responsibility for third-party posts. But, claimants assert that this can be bypassed by filing a lawsuit under Myanmar law.
Mark Farmaner from Burma Campaign UK, says, “These cases are essential not only for Rohingya genocide victims but also to force Facebook into admitting its part in genocide facilitation and changing the way it works.”
Facebook is still allowed to be used by the military for propaganda purposes and to raise funds.
Meta was contacted for comment, but she has not yet responded.