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14 Dec, 2022 11:43

Facebook accused of amplifying hate speech in Africa

Petitioners in Kenya have filed a lawsuit against Meta Platforms, demanding $2 billion in restitution
Facebook accused of amplifying hate speech in Africa

A group of Ethiopian researchers along with Kenyan human rights campaigners have filed a lawsuit against Facebook owner Meta Platforms, accusing the tech giant of amplifying hate speech and incitements to violence on the site.

Filed in Kenya’s High Court on Tuesday, the constitutional petition claims that Facebook's recommendations algorithm amplified violent posts and contributed to Ethiopia’s ongoing bloody civil war. Some of those messages allegedly resulted in the murder of chemistry professor Maereg Amare – the father of one of the plaintiffs, according to legal non-profit Foxglove, which is providing support for the case.

“My father was killed because posts published on Facebook identified him, accused him falsely, leaked the address of where he lives and called for his death,” Maereg’s son Abrham wrote in a sworn affidavit seen by Bloomberg News.

He added that he reported the hateful post to Meta but received no response until over a week after his father’s murder. In its response, Facebook stated that the post would be removed for violating community standards, he said.

The petitioners argue that the public needs to be protected from Facebook’s “woeful failure to address violence on its platform” and its content recommendation algorithm which “promotes and prioritizes hateful incitement and dangerous content.”

“Content that promotes violence can and does translate to violence off-line,” the court documents reportedly state.

Meta has responded to the allegations by claiming it works with local civil society organizations and international institutions in Ethiopia in order to enforce its rules against hate speech and incitements to violence on the platform.

The petitioners, however, feel that the company should invest more heavily in content moderation focused on Africa, Latin America and the Middle East, especially in countries that are “vulnerable to war, conflict, ethnic cleansing and genocide.” 

To that end, they demand that Meta provide better pay and working conditions to content moderators focused on those regions, as well as setting up a $2 billion restitution fund for the victims of hate and violence incited on the platform.

Similar allegations against Meta were made last year, when the social media giant was sued for $150 billion over its role in inciting violence in Myanmar that contributed to the Rohingya genocide.