Meta sued $2bn for allowing Ethiopia civil war incitements on Facebook
A new lawsuit filed in Kenya has accused Meta of allowing violent and hateful posts from Ethiopia to “flourish” on its Facebook platform.
The lawsuit claims that the Facebook posts inflamed the country’s civil war between the government and rebellious forces from the northern Tigray region, which has seen millions displaced and thousands killed.
The case against Meta, the parent company of social media platforms Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, has been brought to court by two Ethiopian researchers and Kenyan rights group the Katiba Institute.
They argue that Facebook’s recommendations system highlighted violent posts in Ethiopia, and want $2bn for the victims of violence they claim were incited by the posts, and are also asking for Meta to take immediate steps to restrict violent content and increase moderation staff in Nairobi.
One of the researchers bringing the case to court, Abrham Mearag, is the son of an Ethiopian academic who was shot dead after posts published on Facebook used ethnic slurs to refer to his father, shared his address, and called for his death.
According to the lawsuit, Mearag reported the posts to Facebook at the time but the company declined to remove them promptly or in some cases at all.
The Facebook parent company has also come under scrutiny in the lawsuit for failing to train its algorithm in identifying dangerous posts and failing to hire enough staff to police content for the languages covered in Nairobi.
In response to the lawsuit, Meta told BBC News: “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 the country, including Amharic, Oromo, Somali and Tigrinya.”
It says that Ethiopia is a high priority, even though less than 10% of its population uses Facebook, and claims the steps it has taken include reducing posts’ virality, expanding violence and incitement policies, and improving enforcement.
Facebook has already been under fire with allegations accusing it for allowing war propaganda run riot on its platform.
Previously, the social media platform was accused of not taking action against Facebook posts by the Burmese military that are said to have incited the genocide of Muslims in Myanmar.
Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie said in relation to this: “Mark Zuckerberg was warned about that by the UN and he did nothing because he doesn’t care. You have a CEO who will not lift a finger in a country where a genocide is happening.”
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