Rohingya sue Facebook for $150bn over Myanmar hate speech

West News Wire: Hundreds of Rohingya refugees in the United Kingdom and the United States have sued Facebook, alleging that the social media giant aided the propagation of anti-Rohingya hate speech.

They are seeking more than $150 billion (£113 billion) in damages, saying that Facebook’s services encouraged violence against persecuted minorities.

During a military crackdown in Buddhist-majority Myanmar in 2017, an estimated 10,000 Rohingya Muslims were slaughtered.

The charges were not immediately responded to by Facebook, which is now known as Meta. The corporation has been charged with allowing “the spread of vile and deadly falsehoods to persist for years.”

A British legal company representing some of the migrants in the UK has issued a letter to Facebook, which the BBC has seen, alleging:

“Hate speech against the Rohingya people was magnified by Facebook’s algorithms,” according to the report.

The company “failed to invest” in moderators and fact checkers who were familiar with Myanmar’s political context.

The company did not take down or delete posts or accounts that incited violence against Rohingya Muslims.

Despite warnings from NGOs and the media, it failed to “take adequate and timely action.”

In San Francisco, attorneys filed a lawsuit against Facebook, accusing the company of being “ready to exchange the lives of the Rohingya people for improved market penetration in a minor Southeast Asian country.”

They cite Facebook messages found in a Reuters investigation, including one from 2013 that stated, “We must attack them like Hitler fought the Jews.”

“Pour gasoline and light fire so that they can meet Allah quickly,” another message wrote.

Myanmar has more than 20 million Facebook users. For many people, social media is their primary or exclusive source of news and information. In 2018, Facebook confessed that it had not done enough to prevent incitement to violence and hate speech against Rohingya Muslims.

This came after a Facebook-commissioned independent assessment found that the social media network had created a “enabling environment” for the spread of human rights violations. Thousands of people have killed, and over 700,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh. Human rights violations, including as arbitrary killings, rape, and land burning, have also been widely reported.

In 2018, the UN accused Facebook of being “slow and ineffective” in its response to the spread of hatred online.

Under US law, Facebook is essentially immune from responsibility for user-generated content. However, the current complaint claims that Myanmar’s legislation, which lacks such safeguards, should prevail in the case.

In Myanmar, the Rohingya are considered illegal migrants and have faced discrimination from both the government and the general population for decades.