Activists file case against Meta over Tigray hate posts

Activists file case against Meta over Tigray hate posts

Petitioners claim that Meta responded inadequately to hateful content on its platform.
Petitioners claim that Meta responded inadequately to hateful content on its platform.

NAIROBI: An Ethiopian man whose father was murdered during the country's war has joined a lawsuit against Meta that is seeking $1.6 billion from Facebook's parent company for allegedly fanning hate speech in Africa.

The case filed in Kenya's High Court on Wednesday by two individuals and a rights group says Meta responded inadequately to hateful content on its platform, especially in relation to the war in Ethiopia's northern Tigray region.

One petitioner said his father, an ethnic Tigrayan, had been targeted by racist messages on Facebook before his murder in November 2021, and the social media giant had failed to move quickly to remove these posts.

"If Facebook had just stopped the spread of hate and moderated posts properly, my father would still be alive," said Abrham Meareg, who is also Tigrayan and an academic like his father.

"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."

His lawyer, Mercy Mutemi, said Facebook took a month to respond to Abrham's appeals for the content to be taken down.

"Why did it take over a month to take down a post that calls for the murder of somebody?" she said.

Mutemi said Facebook acknowledged the content violated community standards but a year later one of the violent posts was still online.

Another petitioner is Fisseha Tekle, an Ethiopian researcher for Amnesty International and a Tigrayan, who has written about the war and faced a torrent of online abuse.

The international community has condemned hate speech and dehumanising rhetoric during the two-year conflict, which has seen all sides accused of atrocities amid warnings of ethnic cleansing.

- 'Inhumane' working conditions -

Meta spokesperson Ben Walters said the company was yet to be served with the lawsuit, but had "strict rules which outline what is and isn't allowed on Facebook and Instagram."

"We've removed misinformation when there is a risk it may contribute to physical harm for a long time," he told AFP in a statement.

"In Ethiopia, we have identified and are removing a number of pre-reviewed harmful claims and out of context imagery that make false allegations about the perpetrators, severity or targets of violence in Ethiopia."

The Katiba Institute, a Kenyan rights group and another petitioner to the lawsuit, is seeking changes to Facebook's algorithm.

Inciteful, hateful and dangerous posts "spark conversation, attract reactions and shares as well as motivate back-and-forth discussion in the comments section," read the petition seen by AFP.

It also accused Meta of "inhumane" working conditions for its overstretched content moderators in Nairobi tasked with overseeing eastern and southern Africa, a vast region covering 500 million people.

The petitioners claim this resulted in "systematic discrimination" against African Facebook users, citing the platform's swift response by comparison to the attack on the US Capitol by supporters of former US president Donald Trump on January 6, 2021.

The petitioners are asking the court for the establishment of a 200-billion Kenyan shillings ($1.6-billion) compensation fund for victims of hate and violence incited on Facebook.

In late 2021, Rohingya refugees sued Facebook for $150 billion, claiming the social network failed to stem hate speech directed against them.

The Rohingya, a mainly Muslim minority, were driven from Myanmar in 2017 into neighbouring Bangladesh by security forces in a crackdown now subject to a UN genocide investigation.

AFP is involved in a partnership with Meta providing fact-checking services in Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, Latin America and Africa.


Do you like the content of this article?
COMMENT

Ukraine raids homes, offices in graft clampdown

KYIV (UKRAINE) - Ukraine expanded a clampdown on corruption on Wednesday launching coordinated searches of residences linked to a divisive oligarch and former interior minister as well as tax offices in the capital.

1 Feb 2023

Myanmar state of emergency extended

Myanmar’s military authorities announced a six-month extension to a state of emergency on Wednesday, likely delaying elections the junta had pledged to hold by August as they battle anti-coup fighters across the country.

1 Feb 2023

Leicester owner Aiyawatt clears £194m debt

Leicester chairman Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha has relieved the football club of an outstanding £194-million (7.8 billion baht) debt that had been owed to parent company King Power International.

1 Feb 2023