Myanmar Rohingya refugees have filed a $150 billion lawsuit against Meta, formerly known as Facebook, alleging that the social media platform failed to take action against anti-Rohingya hate speech that contributed to atrocities.
A class-action lawsuit filed in California on Monday by law firms Edelson PC and Fields PLLC claims that the company’s failings to control content and the design of its platform contributed to the real-world violence experienced by the Rohingya community. It also references a UN inquiry that concluded Facebook played a significant role in the massacre of 24,000 Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.
“Facebook allowed the dissemination of hateful and dangerous misinformation to continue for years, long after it was repeatedly put on notice of the horrific and deadly consequences of its inaction,” according to the lawsuit.
Facebook did not respond quickly to the case. However, in a 2018 blog post titled Independent Assessment of Facebook’s Human Rights Impact in Myanmar, the company stated that “prior to this year, we weren’t doing enough to prevent our platform from being used to foment division and incite offline violence. We agree that we can and should do more.”
“We’re working with the UN’s Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar, which has a mandate to collect evidence with appropriate safeguards in place and assist accountability efforts,” Facebook said in an update to the post last year.
“Through this work, we’ve begun to lawfully provide data to the IIMM that we preserved back in 2018. As these investigations proceed, we will continue to coordinate with them to provide relevant information as they investigate international crimes in Myanmar.”
To bypass Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a US statute that protects tech companies from user-posted information, the lawsuit’s claimant would use Burmese law to her charges. According to Edelson PC, this distinction is a “critical piece” of the US litigation.
Also, the complaint includes numerous comments from Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, making it the second major case against Facebook since it went public with a collection of internal documents and testified before Congress.
Moreover, British lawyers also sent a letter of notice on Facebook’s London office as part of a coordinated operation, notifying the company that its clients “intend to bring proceedings against FB UK in the High Court.”
“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 states.
“… until now, no successful legal action has ever been taken against Facebook to compensate the Rohingya people for the extraordinary losses they have suffered.”