Meta, the parent company of Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram, is seeking more than $2 billion in damages from Facebook, accusing the social media giant of making a profit from content that promotes ethnic and political violence across Africa.
The lawsuit filed by International Justice Mission (IJM) against Facebook alleges that the social media giant has “knowingly facilitated the spread of hate and incitement to violence” in Kenya. IJM argues that Facebook is aware of the problem but has failed to take action to address it.
According to the lawsuit, Facebook has allowed groups and individuals to post and share content that promotes ethnic and political divisions, which has led to violence in Kenya. IJM is asking for damages and for Facebook to take steps to prevent similar content from being shared in the future.
Two Ethiopians have filed a lawsuit against Facebook’s parent company, Meta, in the United States. The Ethiopians accuse Meta of fueling conflict across Africa, and enabling attacks that have killed 500,000 Ethiopians during the recent Tigray War.
In their lawsuit, the Ethiopians allege that Meta knew that its platform was being used to incite violence and did not take adequate measures to stop it. They are seeking damages for the loss of life and damage to property that they say was caused by Meta’s negligence.
One claimant is the son of university professor Meareg Amare, who was killed weeks after posts on Facebook incited violence and doxed him. Doxing is the act of revealing someone’s personal information online, often with the intention of causing them harm. In Meareg’s case, his address was leaked online in the hopes that others would target him. Sadly, Meareg was killed just a few weeks after these posts appeared on Facebook.
The lawsuit alleges that Meta hasn’t hired enough content moderators in its Kenya headquarters, where the lawsuit was filed, and that it acts more slowly to crises in Africa than elsewhere in the world.
The plaintiffs are asking the court to order Meta to take emergency steps to demote violent content, increase moderation staff in Nairobi and create restitution funds of about $2billion for global victims of violence incited on Facebook.
A Facebook spokesman, Ben Walters, told The Associated Press they could not comment on the lawsuit because they haven’t received it.
He shared a general statement: ‘We have strict rules which outline what is and isn’t allowed on Facebook and Instagram.
‘Hate speech and incitement to violence are against these rules and we invest heavily in teams and technology to help us find and remove this content.’
Facebook continues to develop its capabilities to catch violating content in Ethiopia’s most widely spoken languages, it said.
The father of Abrham Meareg, one of the Ethiopian researchers, faced ethnic slurs and calls for his death in Facebook posts in October 2021 that revealed where he lived, according to the lawsuit.
It alleges that Abrham reported them to Facebook immediately but the company failed to remove them promptly or in some cases at all.
Abrham’s father, an ethnic Tigrayan, was murdered on November 3 2021, according to the lawsuit. Abrham told Reuters he held Meta ‘directly responsible’ for his father’s death.
The case echoes accusations Meta has faced over content on its platforms related to violence elsewhere, including in Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Cambodia. The company has acknowledged being ‘too slow’ to act in Myanmar.
Ethiopia’s two-year Tigray conflict is thought to have killed hundreds of thousands of people. The warring sides signed a peace deal last month.
Thousands have died and millions have been displaced after the conflict that erupted in 2020 between the federal government and rebellious forces from the northern Tigray region.
The two sides agreed in November to a permanent cessation of hostilities.
The AP and more than a dozen other media outlets last year explored how Facebook had failed to quickly and effectively moderate hate speech in cases around the world, including in Ethiopia.
The reports were based on internal documents obtained by whistleblower Frances Haugen.
Agencies contributed to this report