On 6 December 2021, members of the Rohingya community of Myanmar filed class action lawsuits in the United States and the United Kingdom against Facebook and its parent company Meta. The plaintiffs argue that Facebook’s negligence amplified a campaign of grave human rights abuses and crimes against humanity against the Muslim minority of Myanmar. In particular, the plaintiffs claim that Facebook used algorithms to amplify hate speech against the Rohingya people, failed to invest in content moderators and fact checkers who spoke Burmese and understood the political situation in Myanmar, failed to remove hate speech, and failed to take appropriate and timely action despite extensive warnings from NGOs and the media from 2014 onwards. In these claims, the lawsuits make reference to the documents leaked by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen. The plaintiffs are demanding around €133.1 billion in total damages.
In the US complaint, the plaintiffs seek to apply Myanmar law if Section 230 of the Communication Decency Act is raised as a defence. Section 230 provides that platforms like Facebook cannot be held liable for the content posted by their users. It remains unclear whether the US will hear the claims under foreign law, which happens only in special circumstances.
While legal experts are unsure about the chances of success, due in fact to a lack of precedent, the lawsuit certainly served as a wake-up call for platforms like Facebook.