Facebook Accused Of Inflaming Ethiopia's Civil War By Promoting Hateful Content; Petitioners Demand $2B Fund For Victims

Zinger Key Points
  • A lawsuit reportedly alleged that Facebook’s recommendations systems amplified violent posts in Ethiopia.
  • Facebook said it invests heavily in teams and technology to help find and remove hateful content.

A new lawsuit accused Meta Platforms Inc. META of inflaming Ethiopia’s civil war by enabling violent and hateful posts to flourish on Facebook

What Happened: The lawsuit — filed by two Ethiopian researchers and Kenyan rights group Katiba Institute — alleged that Facebook’s recommendations systems amplified violent posts in Ethiopia, reported Bloomberg.

The lawsuit said Facebook failed to exercise reasonable care in training its algorithms and amplified hate speech and incitement to violence that preceded the murder of the father of one of the researchers.

See Also: Meta Oversight Board Rules In Support Of Post Comparing Russian Soldiers To Nazis

A Meta spokesperson told Benzinga in a statement, “Hate speech and incitement to violence are against these rules and we invest heavily in teams and technology to help us find and remove this content.”

The spokesperson added, “Our safety and integrity work in Ethiopia is guided by feedback from local civil society organizations and international institutions. We employ staff with local knowledge and expertise, and continue to develop our capabilities to catch violating content in the most widely spoken languages in the country, including Amharic, Oromo, Somali and Tigrinya.”

In the lawsuit, the researchers also highlighted a Facebook post that used ethnic slurs to refer to the father of plaintiff Abrham Meareg and shared his address and called for his death. Mearag reported them to Meta, but the platform declined to remove them promptly or, in some cases, at all, it alleged.

"My father was killed because posts published on Facebook identified him, accused him falsely, leaked the address of where he lives and called for his death," Maereg wrote in the affidavit.

The researchers are asking Meta to take emergency steps to demote violent content in the region, increase staff to police content in Nairobi and create restitution funds of about $2 billion for victims of violence incited on its platform.

This comes after the social media giant's independent oversight board last year recommended a review of how its platforms — Facebook and Instagram — have been used to spread content that increased the risk of violence in the African country. 

Meta was accused of inciting hatred against the Rohingya through its “hate-spiraling algorithms” in Myanmar. The atrocities committed by the Myanmar military against the Rohingya people in 2017 were greatly influenced by Meta "proactively" amplifying and promoting hatred content, it said.

Check out more of Benzinga’s Europe and Asia coverage by following this link.

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