Manitoba Daily

Friday, January 28, 2022

Facebook is being sued by Rohingya refugees in Myanmar for US$150 billion

Myanmar brutality has prompted Rohingya refugees to sue Facebook

Key takeaways:

  • Myanmarese Rohingya refugees have filed a US$150 billion lawsuit against Meta Platforms Inc, formerly Facebook.
  • Facebook claims that a U.S. internet legislation known as Section 230 protects it from accountability for content uploaded by users.
  • U.N. human rights investigators claimed that Facebook had a critical role in transmitting hate speech that fueled the violence.

Myanmarese Rohingya refugees are suing Meta Platforms Inc, formerly known as Facebook, for US$150 billion, alleging that the social media firm failed to take action against anti-Rohingya hate speech that fueled violence.

According to a class-action lawsuit filed in California on Monday by law firms Edelson PC and Fields PLLC, the company’s failures to control material and the platform’s design contributed to real-world violence endured by the Rohingya population. 

British lawyers also sent a letter of notice to Facebook’s London office as part of a coordinated operation.

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Facebook did not immediately return a Reuters request for comment on the complaint. After the Feb. 1 coup, the business admitted that it was “too slow to combat disinformation and hate” in Myanmar. 

It has already taken actions to address platform abuses in the country, including barring the military from Facebook and Instagram.

Facebook claims that a U.S. internet legislation known as Section 230 protects it from accountability for content uploaded by users. 

Section 230 states that online platforms are not accountable for content submitted by third parties. If Section 230 is claimed as a defense, the complaint claims it will apply Burmese law to the accusations.

Although U.S. courts can apply foreign law to cases involving alleged harms and company activity in other countries, two legal experts interviewed by Reuters said they were unaware of a successful precedent for foreign law being used in lawsuits against social media companies where Section 230 protections might apply.

According to Anupam Chander, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center, Invoking Burmese law was not “inappropriate.” “It’s unlikely to succeed,” he said, adding that “it would be strange for Congress to have foreclosed proceedings under U.S. law but allowed them to proceed under foreign law.”

Rohingya refugees sue Facebook for $150 billion over Myanmar violence -  Flipboard
Myanmar brutality has prompted Rohingya refugees to sue Facebook. Image from Flipboard

More than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims fled Myanmar’s Rakhine state in August 2017 after a military crackdown that included mass executions and rape. Human rights organizations claim that civilians have been killed and villages have been burnt.

Myanmar’s government claims to be fighting an insurgency and denies committing systematic killings.

In 2018, U.N. human rights investigators claimed that Facebook had a critical role in the transmission of hate speech that fueled the violence. 

According to a Reuters investigation that year, more than 1,000 examples of postings, comments, and photographs insulting the Rohingya and other Muslims on Facebook were identified, which was included in the U.S. case.

The International Criminal Court has started an inquiry into claims of crimes in the region. A federal judge in the United States has ordered Facebook to divulge information about accounts linked to anti-Rohingya violence in Myanmar that it shut down in September.

The latest class-action lawsuit is based on assertions made by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, who revealed a cache of internal documents earlier this year that the corporation fails to control offensive content in nations where it is most likely to harm.

The complaint also references recent media stories from Reuters last month, alleging that Myanmar’s military was engaging in “information warfare” by creating bogus social media profiles.

Source: CTV News

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