A US federal judge ordered Facebook on Sept. 22 to produce documents relating to its involvement in violence against the Rohingya people in Burma. The Gambia brought a claim against Facebook, Inc before the International Court of Justice alleging that the social media platform played a key role in the genocide of the Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic minority. The Gambia then filed suit against Facebook in the District of Columbia, under 28 USC § 1782, seeking certain documentation related to the World Court case. Facebook admitted that it failed to respond in a timely manner to concerns about its role in the Rohingya genocide. The Gambia’s case contended that it was only in 2018, six years into the genocide, that Facebook began deleting accounts and content used by Burmese government officials to enflame attacks on the Rohingya.
In court, the Gambia sought access to the deleted Facebook content. It alleged that as the genocide was occurring, Facebook continued exposing millions of people in Burma with poor digital-media literacy skills to disinformation and rumors about the Rohingya.
Facebook countered that Gambia’s request for deleted documents violated the right to privacy under the Stored Communications Act. Judge Zia Faruqui rejected this argument, stating: “Facebook taking up the mantle of privacy rights is rich with irony.” Hence, the court allowed the Gambia to access to Facebook’s “de-platformed content and related internal investigation documents,” which could prove “significant to The Gambia’s ability to prove genocidal intent.”
In April, the group Muslim Advocates also sued Facebook, alleging that the company violated the DC Consumer Protection Procedures Act by allowing fraudulent and negligent misrepresentation of Muslims on its platform. That same month, US senators introduced the Rohingya Genocide Determination Act, requiring the State Department to investigate whether the Burmese military’s “clearance operations” against the Rohingya constituted genocide.
From Jurist, Sept. 23. Used with permission.
See our last reports on the Rohingya, and Facebook’s enabling of genocide and connivance with oppressive regimes.
Facebook accused of fanning hate
A Facebook whistleblower has accused the social network of “literally fanning ethnic violence” in places like Burma and Ethiopia. Testifying to US senators last week, Frances Haugen, a former manager, said Facebook’s algorithm optimizes “high-engagement” content—posts that provoke the most extreme reactions, designed to keep users on the platform. She alleged the company systematically puts profit before the public good. Although Facebook has policies in place to prevent hate speech, an investigation in Burma by the rights group Global Witness found the algorithm incited violence during the military’s 2017 purge of the Rohingya minority. “What we saw in Myanmar and are now seeing in Ethiopia are only the opening chapters of a story so terrifying, no one wants to read the end of it,” Haugen told lawmakers. Her testimony follows her leak to the Wall Street Journal of scores of internal documents demonstrating how the company ignored its own research warning about the impact of its audience engagement policy on democracy, human rights, and public health. (TNH)
Rohingya refugees sue Facebook
Rohingya refugees in the US and UK have filed a lawsuit against Meta Platforms, Inc. (DBA Facebook) alleging the social media giant’s “inaction and support of hate speech, misinformation, and incitement of violence fostered the 10-year genocide of the Rohingya Muslims.”
The suit was filed by Chicago-based Edelson PC and seeks to apply Burma law to the plaintiffs’ claim in an attempt to circumvent § 230 of the Communications Decency Act—a US law that protects tech companies from content posted by users. According to the complaint, social media companies are not immune under Burmese law for inciting violence and/or genocide.
The complaint alleges that the introduction of Facebook in Burma in 2011 has “materially contributed to the development and widespread dissemination of anti-Rohingya hate speech, misinformation, and incitement of violence,” which in turn “amounted to a substantial cause of…the eventual Rohingya genocide.”
The suit has been filed in California Superior Court in San Mateo County and seeks compensatory damages of $150 billion for wrongful death, personal injury, pain and suffering, emotional distress and loss of property, as well as punitive damages in an amount to be determined at trial. (Jurist)
ICJ begins oral arguments in Burma genocide case
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Feb. 21 began hearing oral arguments in a case brought by Gambia to determine whether Burma has violated the Convention on the Prevention & Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Genocide Convention). (Jurist)
Biden administration recognizes Rohingya genocide
The Biden administration on March 21 formally announced its determination that Burma’s military has committed acts of genocide and crimes against humanity against Rohingya Muslims. In announcing the determination at the the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he has ordered a “legal and factual analysis” of the atrocities committed against the minority group. He also announced additional funding of $1 million to the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar (IIMM), a UN-based fact-finding mission responsible for gathering evidence for prosecutions against the junta. (Jurist)
ICJ allows Rohingya genocide case to proceed
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled in a 15-1 decision to dismiss preliminary objections by Burma challenging the court’s jurisdiction in a genocide case brought by Gambia on bealf of the Rohingya people. (Jurist, Al Jazeera)