Meta sued for $1.6Bn Over Facebook Hate Speech in Ethiopia Conflict

Meta sued for $1.6Bn Over Facebook Hate Speech in Ethiopia Conflict

A lawsuit against Meta has been filed in Kenya for allowing Facebook posts that incite violence and hate speech in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, fueling a bloody civil war.

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The lawsuit was brought by two Ethiopian researchers and a Kenyan rights group – Katiba Institute alleging the social media platform’s recommendations amplified hateful and violent posts inflaming unrest in Ethiopia. The $1.6 billion lawsuit was filed at the high court of Kenya. Meta’s Sub Saharan Africa operations are based in Nairobi, Kenya.

“Not only does Facebook allow such content to be on the platform, they prioritise it and they make money from such content. Why are they allowed to do that?” Mercy Mutemi, the lawyer representing the two Ethiopian researchers, told a news conference in Nairobi.

The $1.6 billion from the lawsuit will be used to fund for victims of hate speech.

The lawsuit further accuses Meta’s algorithms for failure to identify dangerous content on Facebook.

Meta denies wrongdoing

However, Aljazeera reports Meta spokesperson Erin McPike said the organisation’s rules do not condone violence and hate speech on Facebook and Instragram.

“We invest heavily in teams and technology to help us find and remove this content. We employ staff with local knowledge and expertise and continue to develop our capabilities to catch violating content in the most widely spoken languages in Ethiopia,” McPike said.

Meta sued for $1.6Bn Over Facebook Hate Speech in Ethiopia Conflict

The unrest in Tigray begun in 2020 resulting in loss of thousands of lives including the father of Abrham Maereg who is one of the Ethiopian researchers and plaintiff.

According to the lawsuit, Abrham’s father – Professor Meareg Amare Abrha – who was also an academic, faced ethnic smears with posts that had his address and calls for his death in October 2021.

The lawsuit further alleges Abrham reported the posts to Facebook who failed to immediately remove the hateful posts.  Meareg was then murdered on Nov. 3, 2021 and Abrham told Reuters he holds Facebook directly responsible for his father’s death.

“If Facebook had just stopped the spread of hate and moderated posts properly, my father would still be alive,” said Abrham.

“I’m taking Facebook to court so no one ever suffers as my family has again. I’m seeking justice for millions of my fellow Africans hurt by Facebook’s profiteering – and an apology for my father’s murder,” he said.

The petitioners also want Meta to have enough content moderators who understand local languages at its moderation hub in Nairobi.

More accusations against Meta

Meta has also faced accusations for years of conflicts in other countries like Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Cambodia.

In the case of Myanmar and other conflicts, Meta has admitted to “being too slow” to act.

According to an independent report commissioned by the company, it reveals that the social media platform “has become a means for those seeking to spread hate and cause harm, and posts have been linked to offline violence.”

It faces compensation claims worth over £150 billion for failing to prevent hate speech and posts that incite violence in the Myanmar conflict.

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