Rohingya refugees sue Facebook for more than £100bn over Myanmar hate speech

Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar prepare to leave a transit shelter. Credit: AP

Facebook is being sued by a transatlantic team of Rohingya refugees for over $150billion (around £113bn) amid claims the platform allowed hate speech against the group to spread.

The refugees - located in the UK, US and Bangladesh - argued that Facebook "amplified" abuse of their people and failed to remove inflammatory posts.

Who are the Rohingya Muslims?

In 2017, nearly 700,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar, where security forces and mobs conducted a brutal crackdown.

The UN, the UK and others described the crackdown as ethnic cleansing.

Many of the country’s majority Burmans took to social media to support the military campaign and disparage those fleeing.

Rohingya refugees arrive on the Bangladeshi's Shah Porir Dip Island. Credit: PA

Discrimination has in recent years extended to other Muslims throughout the country, sometimes flaring into communal violence.

A letter submitted to Facebook by UK lawyers on Monday said Rohingya Muslims have been "subject to acts of serious violence, murder and/or other grave human rights abuses by Myanmar's regime and civilian extremists".

What has Facebook been accused of?

UK lawyers McCue, Jury and Partners accused Facebook of:

  • Using algorithms that amplify hate speech against the Rohingya.

  • Failing to invest sufficiently in Burmese-speaking moderators or local fact-checkers.

  • Leaving up posts and accounts that contain hate speech or incite violence towards the Rohingya people.

  • Ignoring warnings from NGOs and the media about anti-Rohingya content on the platform.

A class action complaint lodged by US lawyers said Facebook are "willing to trade the lives of the Rohingya people for better market penetration in a small country in southeast Asia".

More than 500,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled violence in Myanmar. Credit: PA

What does Facebook have to say about these claims?

Facebook has not yet responded to these specific allegations, but three years ago, the company commissioned a report that found Facebook was used to “foment division and incite offline violence” in Myanmar.

It pledged to do better and developed several tools and policies to deal with hate speech.