Meta Sued Over Hate Speech Posted During Tigray Fighting

Filing says crises in Africa are a low priority for Facebook
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 14, 2022 5:20 PM CST
Meta Sued Over Hate Speech Posted During Tigray Fighting
A police marching band plays at a street carnival in Mekele, capital of the Tigray region, on Nov. 26 in support of the peace deal between the Ethiopian government and Tigray forces.   (AP Photo)

Two Ethiopians have filed a lawsuit against Facebook's parent company, Meta, over hate speech they say was allowed and even promoted on the social media platform during their country's deadly Tigray conflict. Former Amnesty International human rights researcher Fisseha Tekle is one petitioner in the case filed Wednesday, and the other is the son of university professor Meareg Amare, who was killed weeks after posts on Facebook inciting violence against him. The case was filed in neighboring Kenya, home to the platform's content moderation operations related to Ethiopia. The lawsuit says that Meta hasn't hired enough content moderators there, that it uses an algorithm that prioritizes hateful content, and that it acts more slowly to crises in Africa than elsewhere in the world, the AP reports.

The lawsuit, also backed by Kenya-based legal organization the Katiba Institute, seeks the creation of a $1.6 billion fund for victims of hate speech. A Facebook spokesman, Ben Walters, told the AP that he couldn't comment on the lawsuit because the company hasn't received it. He shared a general statement saying: "We have strict rules which outline what is and isn’t allowed on Facebook and Instagram. 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." Facebook continues to develop its capabilities to catch violating content in Ethiopia's most widely spoken languages, it said.

Ethiopia's two-year Tigray conflict is thought to have killed hundreds of thousands of people. The warring sides signed a peace deal last month. "This legal action is a significant step in holding Meta to account for its harmful business model," said Flavia Mwangovya of Amnesty International in a statement pointing out that the Facebook posts targeting its former researcher and the professor were not isolated cases. The AP and more than a dozen other media outlets last year explored how Facebook had failed to quickly and effectively moderate hate speech in cases around the world, including in Ethiopia. The reports were based on internal documents obtained by whistleblower Frances Haugen.

(More Facebook stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.