Rohingya Refugees Sue Facebook For $150 Bn Over Myanmar Violence Due To Unregulated Hate Speech

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New Delhi: Rohingya refugees from Myanmar have decided to sue Meta, formerly, for $150 billion over Facebook against the social media giant that its negligence contributed to the ongoing Myanmar violence, Reuters reported.

Meta allegedly did not take action against anti-Rohingya hate speech, which allegedly led to violence against them, the report said.

On the morning of February 1, 2021, democratically elected members of Myanmar’s ruling party were deposed by the Tatmadaw, Myanmar’s military. This marked the beginning of the coup d’état staged by Min Aung Hlaing, the commander-in-chief of the Tatmadaw. In opposition to this, protests erupted in Myanmar in February 2021, which are known locally as the Spring Revolution.

US Complaint Holds Meta Responsible For Rohingya Violence

On Monday, law firms Edelson PC and Fields PLLC filed a US class-action complaint against Meta in California. The complaint holds Meta responsible for the real-world violence faced by the Rohingya community, and states that the violence was caused due to the company’s failures to regulate content on its social media platform, and Facebook’s design. British lawyers, in a coordinated action, also submitted a letter of notice to Facebook’s London office.

Facebook has said it was “too slow to prevent misinformation and hate” in Myanmar, according to the report. The company said it had banned the military from Facebook and Instagram after the coup d’état, among other steps to crack down on platform abuses in the region.

Facebook Says Section 230 Protects The Company From Liability

Citing a US internet law known as Section 230, Facebook has said the law protects the company from liability over content posted by users because Section 230 holds that online platforms are not liable for content posted by third parties. However, the complaint says that it seeks to apply Burmese law to the claims if Facebook raises Section 230 as a defence.

Reuters had interviewed two legal experts on this matter, the report said. The legal experts said they did not know of a successful precedent (an official decision in the past that is considered as a rule to follow in the same situation later) for foreign law being invoked in lawsuits against social media companies where the concerned use Section 30 as protection.

Myanmar Law Unlikely To Be Successful: Law Professor

Quoting Anupam Chander, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center, the Reuters report said that invoking Myanmar law was not “inappropriate”. Chander, however, predicted that “It’s unlikely to be successful,” and said that “It would be odd for Congress to have foreclosed actions under US law but permitted them to proceed under foreign law”.

This is not the first time Facebook has been sued for its alleged role in violent activities in Myanmar. In 2018, UN human rights investigators said the use of Facebook played a fundamental role in spreading hate speech that fueled the violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, which caused more than 7,30,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee the state.

The same year, A US complaint cited a Reuters investigation, which found more than 1,000 examples of posts, comments and images attacking the Rohingyas and other Muslims on Facebook, the report said.

In September, Facebook was ordered by a US federal judge to release records of accounts connected to anti-Rohingya violence in Myanmar that had been shut down by the company, the report said.

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