Facebook is being sued for more than £200billion over claims it fuelled the genocide of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.
Lawyers have launched legal action on both sides of the Atlantic seeking ‘reparation-style’ compensation from the Silicon Valley tech firm on behalf of victims and survivors.
Those behind the case said that Facebook had ‘fanned the flames of hatred’ by repeatedly ignoring warnings that the platform was being used to share hate speech in the country.
The transatlantic coalition of lawyers, who are working with a number of charities, said that the legal action was needed to stop the company from ‘running the world with impunity’.
Estimates say as many as 25,000 Rohingya, described as ‘the most discriminated people in the world’, were killed and more than 800,000 forced to flee to Bangladesh after violence erupted in 2017.
The attacks were launched by the predominantly Buddhist country’s military alongside local death squads in reaction to low-level attacks by Rohingya militants on more than 30 police posts.
The UN said that forces had unleashed ‘frenzied blood-letting and mass rape’ in the Rakhine province in the west of the country, including the routine abduction of women and girls.
Despite the UN describing the military response as a ‘textbook example of ethnic cleansing’, campaigners said that Facebook failed to stop anti-Rohingya propaganda.
Facebook has admitted it was ‘too slow to prevent misinformation and hate’ in Myanmar and has said it has since taken steps to crack down on platform abuses in the region, including banning the military from Facebook and Instagram after the February 1 coup.
In a letter of notice to Facebook’s UK arm, lawyers notified the company of the intended action in the High court, asking it to preserve any relevant documents for evidence.
The formal claim for negligence and breaching a duty of care, due to be filed later this month, will say that Facebook ‘used algorithms that amplified hate speech’ and failed to invest in local moderators.
It will also accuse the company of failing to remove posts and accounts that incited violence.
Jason McCue, a senior partner at McCue Jury & Partners LLP which is leading the claim, said the case was an attempt to ‘stop this juggernaut of a company that is out of control’.
He added: ‘Whilst on duty, it allowed toxic hatred and ethnic cleansing to be deployed at will by the Myanmar regime and its supporters within its extremist hate speech chat forums.’
A claim was also filed at the Northern District Court of California in San Francisco on behalf of Rohingya refugees based in the US.
The American claim accused Facebook of being ‘willing to trade the lives of the Rohingya people for better market penetration in a small country’.
The document added: ‘It has had blinders on to any real calculation of the benefits to itself compared to the negative impacts it has on anyone else.
‘Facebook is like a robot programed with a singular mission: to grow.
‘And the undeniable reality is that Facebook’s growth, fueled by hate, division, and misinformation, has left hundreds of thousands of devastated Rohingya lives in its wake.’
Tun Khin, president of the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK, said: ‘This powerful global company must be held to account for its role in permitting the spread of hateful anti-Rohingya propaganda which directly led to unspeakable violence.’