According to media reports, owners of Facebook Meta Platforms have been accused of intensifying hate speech and inciting violence on their Facebook platform in Africa in a lawsuit filed in Kenya’s high court that’s calling for about US$2 billion in restitution.
BMA understands that the case was brought by Ethiopian researchers Abraham Meareg and Fisseha Tekle, along with Kenyan human rights group Katiba Institute, and supported by legal non-profit Foxglove.
According to the court filings, the petitioners argue that the public needs protection from Facebook’s “woeful failure to address violence on its platform” and its design that “promotes and prioritises hateful, incitement and dangerous content”.
Meta, which generated US$117.9 billion in 2021, uses a recommendation algorithm on Facebook that promotes content users are likelier to interact with to hold people’s attention. According to court documents, this allows people to be served more ads so the company can maximise revenue.
The documents state, “Content that promotes violence can and does translate to violence off-line.”
In response, Meta says it invests in enforcing its rules against hate speech and incitement of violence.
The company said, “Feedback from local civil society organisations and international institutions guides our safety and integrity work in Ethiopia. In addition, 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.”
Furthermore, the petitioners want Meta to invest more heavily in content moderation focused on Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East, particularly in countries that are “vulnerable to war, conflict, ethnic cleansing and genocide,” the court filings state.
They also call on Meta to provide better pay and working conditions to content moderators focused on those regions and set up a restitution fund of US$2 billion for victims of hate and violence incited on Facebook.