December 15, 2022

In East Africa, Meta (Facebook) Sued for $2B for Fueling Ethnic Violence

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A lawsuit filed in a Kenyan court on Wednesday accused Meta of fueling political unrest in Africa demanding that the company pay over $2 billion in victims funds and make significant improvements to its service.

In the lawsuit, Facebook, owned by Meta, is accused of causing death, displacement of families, vilification of individuals and destruction of communities in Ethiopia, Kenya and across Africa.

Speaking to the media outside the Milimani court in Kenya on Wednesday, Mercy Mutemi a legal practitioner representing the petitioners said that the $2 billion would create a restitution fund for African victims of hate and violence incited on Facebook.

Mutemi said that the lawsuit is targeting Meta “for prioritizing hateful speech on its Facebook platform, and for its content moderation decisions or lack of investment in content moderation.”

The first petitioner is Abrham Meareg, an Ethiopian academic, whose father was doxed in a racist attack on Facebook. The posts called for his father’s murder. Despite reporting the posts to Facebook nothing was done to remove the posts. Meareg’s father was murdered shortly afterwards.

Fisseha Tekle, the second petitioner, is a former Ethiopian researcher and legal advisor at Amnesty International.

Katiba Institute, the third petitioner, is one of Kenya’s eminent legal organizations set up to defend the Kenyan Constitution. They have also joined the case to set out the implications for Kenya of unchecked viral hate and violence running rampant from Facebook’s Nairobi hub.

Others who joined as interested parties include a raft of NGOs across Africa including Global witness, Article 19, the Law Society of Kenya and Amnesty International among others.

Fueling Ethiopia’s ethnic violence

Meta was also sued for fueling the Ethiopian Ethnic violence that has led to the deaths of close to half-a-million people according to the UN and other rights organizations.

Flavia Mwangovya, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director of East Africa, Horn, and Great Lakes Region in a statement said that “the spread of dangerous content on Facebook lies at the heart of Meta’s pursuit of profit, as its systems are designed to keep people engaged. This legal action is a significant step in holding Meta to account for its harmful business model.”

In the wake of a landmark, legal action against Meta submitted in Kenya’s High Court, Amnesty International said that Meta must reform its business practices to ensure Facebook’s algorithms do not amplify hatred and fuel ethnic conflict.

Facebook is yet to respond to media requests on the lawsuit filed against them but Meta spokesperson Erin McPike in a recent interview with reporters said that “hate speech and incitement to violence were against the rules of Facebook and Instagram.”

Anadolu Agency

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