Survivors from Myanmar's Rohingya minority are suing Facebook - or Meta as it’s now known - for knowingly abetting genocide, and demanding at least US$150 billion in compensation.
On Monday, representatives of the Rohingya anonymously filed two class action lawsuits against the social media giant in the US and the UK, representing an estimated 10,000 Rohingya survivors in the US and all survivors in the rest of the world respectively.
The US complaint, filed in a California court just some miles away from the Meta headquarters, cites whistleblower revelations and a UN fact-finding mission stating that Facebook knew about its platform being used to promote violence, and deliberately took no action in order to protect its growth - instead actively making the platform even more conducive to violence.
“Rather than taking what it’s learned to change its practices, Facebook made a corporate decision to lean into the hate,” the complaint states. “It allowed the dissemination of hateful and dangerous misinformation to continue for years, long after it was repeatedly put on notice of the horrific and deadly consequences of its inaction.”
And the UK complaint points out that Facebook has never, to date, offered any form of compensation to sufferers, even though it has publicly acknowledged its culpability.
Individuals and groups have attempted for years to take action against Facebook for the vast quantities of violent and hate-filled content proliferating on its platform. Just this year, at least two lawsuits were filed over content - one by US-based civil rights group Muslim Advocates, and one in France by press freedom non-profit Reporters Without Borders. Both lawsuits accuse the social media network of refusing to take action against disinformation, hate speech, and incitement to violence.
Even Facebook’s own employees and contractors have sued it for not clamping down on violent content. Since 2018, Facebook content moderators have launched a series of individual and class action lawsuits against the company over the disturbing content they were exposed to.
The Rohingya lawsuits are the largest and most high-profile legal action taken against Facebook to date. And they may actually have more teeth than other similar lawsuits, because the lawsuit filed in the US calls for the application of Myanmar law. US law absolves companies of liability for the content created and posted by users of their social media platforms. But Myanmar law does not - and the Rohingya are seeking to have the case tried under Myanmar law.