A newly filed lawsuit in Kenya seeks US$1.6 billion from social media giant Meta, in order to establish a victims compensation fund on behalf of people targeted for violence in Ethiopia because of widely shared Facebook posts.
Amnesty International announced Wednesday that it filed the suit along with six other human rights and legal organizations. Among the parties is Abraham Amare, whose father was targeted by posts that led to ethnic violence.
Meareg Amare, a Tigrayan academic, was set to retire from Bahir Dar University when he was killed in November 2021. Abraham pleaded with Facebook to remove incendiary posts for at least three weeks before his father was killed and is now seeking asylum in the United States because he is unsafe in Ethiopia, according to Amnesty.
Ethiopian national Fisseha Tekle, a legal advisor for the international NGO, also is a party to the suit. He now lives in exile in Kenya after he was targeted by incendiary posts on Facebook.
“In Ethiopia, the people rely on social media for news and information,” he said. “Because of the hate and disinformation on Facebook, human rights defenders have also become targets of threats and vitriol. I saw first-hand how the dynamics on Facebook harmed my own human rights work and hope this case will redress the imbalance.”
The suit also charges that Meta failed to invest in its content moderation operations in the Global South. Facebook opened its first African content review site and expanded fact-checking in African nations in 2019, as it faced global scrutiny for its role in manipulating political campaigns and in states experiencing ethnic conflict.
“From Ethiopia to Myanmar, Meta knew or should have known that its algorithmic systems were fueling the spread of harmful content leading to serious real-world harms,” said Flavia Mwangovya, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director of East Africa, Horn, and Great Lakes Region.
“Meta has shown itself incapable to act to stem this tsunami of hate. Governments need to step up and enforce effective legislation to rein in the surveillance-based business models of tech companies.”
There was no immediate response from Meta about the lawsuit.