Facebook’s parent company, Meta Platforms, is now facing another legal challenge as a lawsuit has been filed against the social media company, in a Kenyan court, with allegations that the company amplified content related to violence and hate amidst civil war in Ethiopia.
The Ethiopian civil war which has been going on since 2018 between the federal government of Ethiopia and the United Front of Ethiopian Federalist and Confederalist Forces has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians.
According to the lawsuit filed by two Ethiopian researchers and Kenyan rights group, the Katiba Institute, Facebook, which is a social media platform under Meta Platforms, amplified violent posts in Ethiopia. Such amplification of violent content on social media allegedly results in the death of the father of one of the researchers.
The lawsuit also alleges that Meta Platforms failed in developing and implementing algorithms which can identify hateful and violent posts on the social media platforms operating under it.
The lawsuit also states that the company acted irresponsibly in hiring individuals to look out for harmful content on the platform. It is important to note that Meta Platforms is operating its content moderation center for the local language from Nairobi. Nairobi is the capital city of Kenya.
The plaintiffs are asking the court to order Meta to take emergency steps to demote violent content, increase moderation staff in Nairobi and create restitution funds of about $2 billion for victims of violence incited on Facebook.
The lawsuit described Facebook posts published in October 2021 that used ethnic slurs to refer to the father of plaintiff Abrham Meareg. The posts shared the elder man’s address and called for his death. Abrham Mearag reported them to Facebook, but the company declined to remove them promptly or in some cases at all, the lawsuit alleged.
In 2021, the independent Oversight Board of Meta Platforms requested the company to conduct a review as to how content on Facebook and Instagram might have been used to increase the status of violence in Ethiopia.
Erin McPike, a spokesperson of Meta Platforms, said that content which incited any kind of violence and hate is against the rules and policies followed by Facebook and Instagram. In relation to Ethiopian civil unrest, Erin McPike said that the company is making use of all technological capabilities to identify and remove hateful and harmful content from the platforms.
He also stated that Meta Platforms are employing staff with knowledge of local languages and affairs, in order to increase the capability to catch violent posts and remove them from the platform.
This is not the first time Facebook and Instagram have come under fire for promoting violence and hateful content on social media platforms. During political and military unrest in various parts of the world, Facebook and Instagram have been alleged of not taking action against violent content on their platforms.