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Facebook sued by Rohingya refugees for $150b over Myanmar violence

31st Dec 2021
Facebook sued by Rohingya refugees for $150b over Myanmar violence

(Credit: Seyyed Mahmoud Hosseini/Tasnim News Agency)

Elham Asaad Buaras

Rohingya refugees are suing Facebook’s parent company, Meta Platforms Inc for $150 billion for ‘fuelling anti-Rohingya prejudice inspired and allowed Myanmar’s military government to engage in an ethnic cleansing campaign against the Rohingya.’

Refugees filed the case in California’s superior court on December 6 claiming Facebook’s arrival in Myanmar helped spread hate speech, misinformation and incitement to violence that ‘amounted to a substantial cause, and eventual perpetuation of, the Rohingya genocide.’

The claimants also likened Facebook to ’a robot programmed with a singular mission: to grow. And the undeniable reality is that Facebook’s growth, fueled by hate, division, and misinformation, has left hundreds of thousands of devastated Rohingya lives in its wake.’

Although Facebook is protected from such allegations in the US under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which provides a liability shield for internet companies over content posted by third parties, attorneys representing the refugees will seek to apply Burmese law to the claims since no such law in Myanmar protects the social media platform.

Lawyers in the UK have issued notice of their intention to file a similar legal action. The mainly Muslim group faces widespread discrimination in Myanmar, where they are despised as interlopers despite having lived in the country for generations.

A military-backed campaign that the UN deemed genocide saw hundreds of thousands of Rohingya driven into Bangladesh in 2017, where they have been living in sprawling refugee camps ever since.
Many others remain in Myanmar, where they are denied citizenship and suffer communal violence, as well as official discrimination by the military that seized power in February.

The legal complaint argues that Facebook’s algorithms drive susceptible users to join ever-more extreme groups, a situation that is “open to exploitation by autocratic politicians and regimes”.
In 2018, UN human rights investigators also said the use of Facebook had played a key role in spreading hate speech that fuelled the violence. A Reuter’s investigation that year found over 1,000 examples of posts, comments and images attacking the Rohingya and other Muslims on Facebook.

The International Criminal Court has opened a case into the accusations of crimes in the region.

On September 22 Facebook was ordered by a magistrate judge in Washington to release records of closed accounts connected to anti-Rohingya violence. The ruling criticised Facebook for refusing to provide the records to countries pursuing a case against Myanmar in international court.

Facebook has previously pledged to do more to combat hate speech in Myanmar, hiring dozens of Burmese-speaking employees. However, civil rights groups have frequently charged that the social media giant fails to take adequate measures against disinformation and misinformation online.

Critics say even when alerted to hate speech the company fails to act. Whistleblower Frances Haugen told the US Congress in October that Facebook is “fanning ethnic violence” in some countries.
Facebook has yet to respond to the complaint filed against the company.

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Over 120 people attended a landmark conference on the media reporting of Islam and Muslims. It was held jointly by The Muslim News and Society of Editors in London on September 15.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence event is to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to society. Over 850 people from diverse background, Muslim and non-Muslim, attended the gala dinner.

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