Tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees have sued Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook, for promoting hate speech. The plaintiffs demand in courts of the United States and the United Kingdom a compensation of 150,000 million dollars (133,000 million euros) when considering that the company did not act to stop the diffusion by the algorithm of Mark Zuckerberg’s platform in Myanmar (the former Burma) for comments that contributed to her persecution. In 2017, the Myanmar Army launched a campaign of persecution and violence against the Muslim Rohingya, which the UN called an “attempted genocide”.
The lawsuit, filed Monday in San Francisco, Washington and London, notes that 2011 – the year Facebook arrived in Myanmar – marked a turning point. The social network then served to promote and disseminate a series of comments that approached hate speech, incited violence or misinformed about this people, persecuted and marginalized for decades. In them, the Rohingya and other Muslims were described as dogs, parasites and rapists, it was suggested that they served to feed the pigs or called for their extermination.
The text of the lawsuit coincides with the public denunciations that Frances Haugen has made in half the world, a former employee of the technology company who has been revealing for months how the US company tolerated violent content that served as fuel in countries with conflicts. “Facebook executives were fully aware that the Government of Myanmar’s publications against the Muslim minority of the Rohingya were spreading widely,” says the text of the lawsuit, which indicates that the leadership of the social network has long known how. refugees were targets of violence. Men, women and children were burned alive inside their homes and schools. “I, working for Facebook, had been part of a genocide,” Haugen has said in other forums.
Part of this admission of guilt came in 2018, when Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg, the executive in charge of Facebook’s operation, admitted that the social network could have done more to prevent what the United Nations Organization already called a “rights catastrophe. humans”. In November of that year, Facebook posted a MEA culpa stating that their platform had been used to “foment divisions and incite violence in the real world.”
The negligence complaint has been filed by a 25-year-old refugee whose name remains anonymous who arrived in the United States after leaving Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh. The woman points out that her father was detained, beaten and tortured for two weeks by the military. He also witnessed how the soldiers murdered seven men in his village. After this he left in a boat for one of the four refugee camps, which housed about a million people until they suffered a fire last March. The lawyers point to the military operations that in 2016 and 2017 caused at least 10,000 deaths and caused the exodus to Bangladesh of some 800,000 Rohingya. The defense claims that at least 10,000 refugees in the United States are part of the class action lawsuit.
After the 2018 admission of guilt message, Facebook strengthened and expanded a team that focused on studying posts about the conflict in Myanmar. “Now we are taking corrective action,” announced the company. The technology company then invested in technology and specialists to stop false news and misinformation in the social network and in other services it has, such as the WhatsApp and Instagram messaging system. In December of that year, the social network eliminated 425 pages, 17 Facebook groups, 135 Facebook accounts and another 15 Instagram accounts that were manipulated by the Myanmar military to spread disinformation.
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The plaintiffs believe that this action came too late. “Despite the guilty plea … he has not paid a penny of compensation or any other form of reparation or support to any survivor,” says lawyer McCue Jury in a letter sent to Facebook’s London headquarters. American lawyers believe that, despite Meta’s efforts, disinformation continues to this day in the country, the victim of a military coup last February. The military junta launched criminal proceedings against Aung San Suu Kyi, the former leader of the Asian nation and 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner, who was sentenced to two years in prison this week.
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