Rohingya Refugees Sue Meta for $150B, Say Failure to Stop Hate Speech Led to Genocide

Facebook's parent company, Meta Platforms, was sued by Rohingya refugees on Monday, claiming the company failed to stop hate speech and misinformation that sparked violence against the Muslim ethnic group.

The lawsuit totals over $150 billion and states that once Facebook began being used in 2011 in Myanmar, it helped spread misinformation and hate speech that "amounted to a substantial cause, and eventual perpetuation of, the Rohingya genocide."

The lawsuit also claims the social media website's algorithms magnified hate speech against the Rohingya people, and that Facebook failed to have enough moderators and fact-checkers to monitor information and even delete accounts and posts that encouraged the violence.

"The resulting Facebook-fueled anti-Rohingya sentiment motivated and enabled the military government of Myanmar to engage in a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya," the lawsuit said.

In 2018, investigations on Facebook's role in the Rohingya attacks were started by United Nations human rights experts, and according to the law firms, over 10,000 deaths and 150,000 physical violence cases have been reported against the Rohingya people.

This lawsuit is just one of the most recent against the social media parent company, Meta Platforms. Many indictments against Facebook have accused the platform of igniting misinformation and political violence on the website, which was outlined in redacted internal documents that were obtained by news organizations including The Associated Press.

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The Facebook logo on screens at the Nasdaq MarketSite, in New York's Times Square, March 29, 2018. Facebook’s parent company, Meta Platforms, has been sued by Rohingya refugees on Monday, claiming the company failed to stop hatespeech and misinformation that sparked violence against the Muslim ethnic group. Richard Drew/Associated Press

Lawyers in the United Kingdom have issued notice of their intention to file a similar legal action.

The combined legal claims from Rohingya refugees are being filed on behalf of anyone worldwide who survived the violence or had a relative who died from it.

The Rohingya are a Muslim ethnic group forced to flee persecution and violence in Myanmar starting in 2017, with an estimated 1 million living in refugee camps in neighboring Bangladesh. Some 10,000 have ended up in the United States.

Facebook arrived in Myanmar in 2011, arranging for millions of residents to access the internet for the first time, according to the lawsuit filed in California Superior Court for San Mateo County. But the lawsuit says the company did little to warn people about the dangers of online misinformation and fake accounts — tactics employed by the military in its campaign against the Rohingya.

The lawsuit says Facebook knew that rewarding users for posting dangerous content and allowing fake accounts created by autocrats to flourish would radicalize users.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.