Facebook: Dozens of Rohingya — a group discriminated against in Myanmar — refugees in the United States and the United Kingdom are suing Facebook for US$ 150 billion, in compensation. The group alleges that the platform has not taken the necessary steps to mediate hate speech, allowing the sharing of fake content and harassment.
Myanmar has been going through periods of political instability for years, but especially after the military coup in February this year, where the government blocked access to social networks and limited the internet. In addition, vulnerable groups became more persecuted, such as the Rohingya, Muslims considered illegal migrants in the country.
An estimated 10,000 Rohingya Muslims were killed during a military crackdown in the country in 2017. After the incident, UN experts claimed that Facebook was widely used to spread hate speech against the minority. A 2020 document, leaked by Facebook Papers, says the company did not have screening algorithms to identify misinformation or hate speech in Burmese, the official language of Myanmar.
Language barriers and processes
The BBC had access to documents from one of the UK law firms representing some of the refugees. In the letter, there are allegations that Facebook’s algorithms amplified hate speech against the Rohingya people, in addition to failing to hire moderators who were aware of the political situation in the country, among other situations of negligence on the part of the company.
In the United States, lawyers filed a legal complaint against the company in San Francisco, Calif., accusing Facebook of putting people’s lives at risk to better perform and profit in the Myanmar market. They even attached hateful content posted on the platform against Rohingya Muslims.
Facebook is considered the main, or only, way to obtain and share information in the country, with more than 20 million users. Under US law, the social network is protected from any liability for what is posted by its users. However, since language coverage was one of the main problems in identifying this type of content, Myanmar law should prevail in this process, where the company would not have such protections.
So far, Facebook’s parent company Meta has not yet commented on the case.