Rohingya sue Facebook for $150bn for fuelling Myanmar hate speech

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The complaint claims algorithmically the company promotes propaganda that translates into real-world violence.

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Rohingya refugees have sued social media giant Facebook for $150 billion, claiming the social network has failed to curb hate speech on its platform, escalating violence against the vulnerable Myanmar minority.

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The complaint, filed in a California court, says the algorithms that power the US-based company promote propaganda and extreme ideas that translate into real-world violence.

“Facebook is like a robot programmed with a singular mission: to grow,” the court document said.

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The undeniable truth is that the growth of Facebook fueled by hatred, divisiveness and misinformation has devastated the lives of millions of Rohingyas.

The predominantly 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 United Nations said amounted to genocide drove hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas across the border in 2017 to Bangladesh, where they have since lived in huge refugee camps.

Many others live in Myanmar, where they are not allowed citizenship and are subject to sectarian 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 more and more extreme groups, a position that is “open to exploitation by autocratic politicians and regimes”.

‘Not doing enough’

Facebook has previously promised to intensify its efforts to fight hate speech in Myanmar, hiring dozens of people who speak the country’s language.

But rights groups have long alleged that the social media giant is not doing enough to stop the spread of misinformation and misinformation online.

Critics say the company fails to act even when hate speech alerts are raised on its platform.

They allege that the social media giant allows lies to spread, influence the lives of minorities and skew elections in democracies such as the United States, where unfounded allegations of fraud are spread among like-minded friends and are fast.

Facebook is yet to respond to the complaint filed against the company.

This year, a major leak by a company insider led to articles arguing Facebook, whose parent company is now called Meta, knew its sites could harm some of their billions of users — but officials didn’t protect the security. But chose development.

Whistleblower Frances Haugen told the US Congress in October that Facebook was “promoting ethnic violence” in some countries.

Under US law, Facebook is largely protected from liability over content posted by its users.

The Rohingya trial, hoping for this defence, argues that, where applicable, the law of Myanmar – which has no such protection – should prevail in the case.

Facebook has been under pressure in the US and Europe to crack down on misinformation, especially regarding elections and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The company has partnered with several media companies, including the Agence France-Presse news agency, to verify posts online and remove untruths.

But despite the partnership, hate speech and misinformation continue to circulate on the site.

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