Rohingya refugees from Myanmar are suing social media giant Facebook on allegations of failing to act against anti-Rohingya hate speech that fueled real-world violence against the group in the region, according to a complaint filed Monday.
"Facebook's algorithms amplified hate speech and the platform failed to take down inflammatory posts," according to the legal action launched in the US and the UK.
Facebook faces compensation claims worth more than £150bn under the coordinated move on both sides of the Atlantic, reports The Guardian.
A class action complaint lodged with the northern district court in San Francisco says Facebook was "willing to trade the lives of the Rohingya people for better market penetration in a small country in south-east Asia."
It adds: "In the end, there was so little for Facebook to gain from its continued presence in Burma, and the consequences for the Rohingya people could not have been more dire. Yet, in the face of this knowledge, and possessing the tools to stop it, it simply kept marching forward."
A letter submitted by lawyers to Facebook's UK office on Monday says clients and their family members have been subjected to acts of "serious violence, murder and/or other grave human rights abuses" as part of a campaign of genocide conducted by the ruling regime and civilian extremists in Myanmar.
It adds that the social media platform, which launched in Myanmar in 2011 and quickly became ubiquitous, aided the process. Lawyers in Britain expect to lodge a claim in the high court, representing Rohingya in the UK and refugees in camps in Bangladesh, in the new year.
"As has been widely recognised and reported, this campaign was fomented by extensive material published on and amplified by the Facebook platform," says the letter from the law firm McCue Jury & Partners.
Facebook admitted in 2018 that it had not done enough to prevent the incitement of violence and hate speech against the Rohingya, the Muslim minority in Myanmar. An independent report commissioned by the company found that "Facebook has become a means for those seeking to spread hate and cause harm, and posts have been linked to offline violence".
The Rohingya are a persecuted minority in Myanmar, a country with a Buddhist majority population.
Abusive social media posts portrayed the Muslim group in sub-human terms and drummed up support for a military crackdown on the community that forced more than 740,000 people to flee the country in 2017.
Most of them now live in one of the world's biggest refugee camps in Bangladesh.