Rohingya sue Facebook for $150 billion over Myanmar hate speech

Report: Facebook “too slow” on hate speech

Report: Facebook “too slow” on hate speech 08: 09

London — Rohingya refugees launched coordinated legal action against Facebook in the U.S. and U.K. on Monday, alleging the tech giant contributed to ethnic cleansing in Myanmar by knowingly allowing hate speech to be spread on its platform. They are seeking over $150 billion in compensation.

In 2017, thousands of Rohingya Muslims, who have been persecuted in Buddhist-majority Myanmar for decades, were killed during a military crackdown. Around 700,000 Rohingya were forced to flee to neighboring Bangladesh, and there were widespread allegations of human rights abuses, including rape and torture.

“Despite having been repeatedly alerted between 2013 and 2017 to the vast quantities of anti-Rohingya hate speech and misinformation on its system… Facebook barely reacted and devoted scant resources to addressing the issue,” a complaint filed in a San Francisco court alleges. According to the complaint, “The resultant Facebook-fueled antiRohingya sentiment motivated the military government in Myanmar to wage an ethnic cleansing campaign against the Rohingya.”

Facebook had not replied to CBS News’ request for comment at time of publishing.

Facebook in Myanmar

“Beginning around 2011, Facebook arranged for tens of millions of Burmese to gain access to the Internet for the first time, exclusively through Facebook,” the U.S. complaint said. This led to a “crisis in digital literacy,” which left these users unaware of the widespread spread of fake information online. Facebook failed to warn Burmese users of the dangers of misinformation, fake accounts, and take steps to stop its evil spread,” it said.

Subsequently, anti-Rohingya misinformation and hate speech spread on the platform, with some posts calling for real-world violence. A human rights disaster in Myanmar began to unfold.

Weaponizing Social Media: The Rohingya Crisis… 28: 59

In 2018, in response to widespread criticism, Facebook commissioned a report to look into hate speech against the Rohingya on its platform. It was found that it was used to incite violence offline and foment division. According to BBC, the company stated that it agreed with the BBC’s report and said that it had made some progress on the problem, but there was still “more to be done.” According to the Associated Press, Facebook has created new policies for dealing with hate speech. These include hiring Burmese speakers, and rating “at-risk” countries that require more content moderation.

But as of last month, an AP investigation found that hate speech against the Rohingya in Myanmar is still widespread on Facebook.

“Big Tech needs to be held accountable for amplifying inflammatory, hateful content that can lead to real world harms,” Naomi Hirst, campaign leader at Global Witness, said in a statement.

“Our own research found that Facebook’s recommendation algorithm directed users in Myanmar towards content that incited violence and pushed misinformation during the early and brutal days of the military coup. “These court cases are crucial, and legislation is necessary to prevent it from happening again,” she stated.

Lawsuits in multiple jurisdictions

Lawyers have filed a class action suit in California for damages of over $150 billion.

The U.S. case has one anonymous plaintiff, who is a Rohingya refugee living in Illinois, but who seeks to bring suit on behalf of any Rohingya refugee who settled in the United States after June 2012. That year, the plaintiff, who was 16 years old at the time according to the complaint, fled to Bangladesh on her own after reports of young girls in villages near hers being taken from their families. The complaint states that her family remains in Myanmar where they live in constant terror of being attacked after having lost their home and businesses.

In the United Kingdom, a letter was sent to Facebook to inform them that a suit will be filed against the company there. According to the British law firm, there will be more than a dozen plaintiffs in this suit.

The U.K. action will allege that Facebook’s algorithm amplified hate speech, and that the company did not invest enough in content moderators who spoke Burmese or Rohingya. The U.K. action will claim that Facebook did not remove hate-speech posts or accounts.

“Despite Facebook’s recognition of its culpability and its pronouncements about its role in the world, there has not been a single penny of compensation, nor any other form of reparations or support, offered to any survivor,” the letter says. This decision was based on the assumption that Rohingya, who are largely marginalised in the world and live in refugee camps, would have difficulty accessing justice. However, today’s situation is improving. “

Haley Ott

Haley Ott is a digital reporter/producer for CBS News based in London.

Thanks for reading CBS NEWS.

Create your free account or log in
for more features.

Please enter email address to continue

Please enter valid email address to continue

Read More

Related Posts