Rohingya refugees from Myanmar are suing Facebook for $150 billion, alleging that the social media behemoth stoked the genocidal attacks against the Muslim ethnic group.
The class-action complaint, filed in California on Monday, accused Facebook of failing to police against hateful, anti-Rohingya content on its platform.
It said Facebook was “willing to trade the lives of the Rohingya people for better market penetration in a small country in south-east Asia.”
“Facebook is like 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,” the complaint read.
In a coordinated action, lawyers in the UK also submitted a letter of notice to Facebook’s London office, saying that they expect to lodge a separate claim in the high court representing Rohingya refugees in the UK and Bangladesh.
Facebook, which launched in Myanmar in 2011 and quickly became popular, is “naturally open to exploitation by autocratic politicians and regimes” due to the nature of its algorithm, the suit in California claims.
The Myanmar military and extremist anti-Rohingya civilians used Facebook to incite hate — and eventually violence — against the group, the suit says.
The Rohingya population is a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority that was concentrated in western Myanmar, a majority Buddhist country.
The central government of Myanmar had long denied the citizenship of the country’s Rohingya residents, largely writing them off as illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh — even though the Rohingya maintain that they’re descendants of merchant groups that have lived in the region for generations.
Amid mounting tension and occasional outbursts of violence in recent decades, an alleged terrorist attack by a Rohingya faction against Myanmar police posts ignited a massive wave of violence.
Human rights groups have documented Myanmar military, police and Buddhist mobs coalescing on Rohingya villages to burn homes and kill thousands, though the government maintains that they were responding to a violent insurgency.
Amnesty International has charged that the military also raped many Rohingya women and girls, spurring hundreds of thousands to make perilous journeys across the Naf River into Bangladesh.
In 2018, human rights investigators from the United Nations found that the use of Facebook played a key role in spreading hate speech that fueled the violence.
As the violence played out, the lawsuit claims, Facebook “barely reacted and devoted scant resources” to monitoring the platform in Myanmar even though company officials were “repeatedly alerted between 2013 and 2017 to the vast quantities of anti-Rohingya hate speech and misinformation on its system.”
A representative for Facebook did not immediately return The Post’s request for comment, though company executives, including CEO Mark Zuckerberg, have previously acknowledged that they didn’t do enough to police its platform in Myanmar.
However, Facebook has also said it’s legally protected from liability over content posted by users by a key US internet law known as Section 230. The complaint brought by the Rohingya groups says it seeks to apply Myanmar law, which does not provide for the same protections as Section 230, to the claims.
The new lawsuit also referenced claims made more recently by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, who leaked thousands of internal documents from the platform, some of which showed the company was failing to effectively respond to abusive and harmful content worldwide.
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