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Rohingya refugees sue Facebook for $150 billion over Myanmar violence

Rohingya refugees sue Facebook for $150 billion over Myanmar violence

Rohingya refugees cross the Nafi River in 2017 (Image Credit: Adam Dean, New York Times)

In another setback for Meta platforms, formerly known as Facebook, Rohingya refugees have filed a lawsuit against the tech giant for promoting violence against them during the 2017 period which forced many Rohingya to flee Myanmar in fear of persecution. The compensatory amount demanded is $150 billion, although experts are sceptical whether the move will actually bear fruit.

A U.S. class-action complaint, filed in California on Monday by law firms Edelson PC and Fields PLLC, argues that the company's failures to police content and its platform's design contributed to real-world violence faced by the Rohingya community. In a coordinated action, British lawyers also submitted a letter of notice to Facebook's London office, reported Reuters.

Facebook had admitted failing to do enough to tackle anti-Rohingya and anti-minority posts online in a blog post on November 5, 2018. An independent UN investigation also concluded that the platform was instrumental in launching attacks and spreading propaganda against Rohingya and other minorities in Myanmar during the mass killings, rape, looting and torture of Rohingya's in the Rakhine state of Myanmar, August 2017.

"We weren't doing enough to help prevent our platform from being used to foment division and incite offline violence. We agree that we can and should do more," the post from Facebook officials read.

The International Criminal Court has opened a case into the accusations of crimes in the region. In September, a U.S. federal judge ordered Facebook to release records of accounts connected to anti-Rohingya violence in Myanmar that the social media giant had shut down.

However, under US law, Facebook is protected from the consequences of content posted by third parties. Section 230 of the US internet law may be invoked as a defence, although the complaint has said it will apply Burmese law to the company if such action is taken. This has prompted speculation from legal experts as to whether the case is viable, given that there is no precedent for such cases.

The complaint also references documents leaked by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, which show that the company was doing little to enforce its own rules against abusive and bigoted content.

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TAGS:FacebookRohingyaMyanmarOnline abuseSocial media policy
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