BrandArena: Meta Sued For Allegedly Inflaming Ethnic Violence in Ethiopia

Friday 16 December 2022

Meta Sued For Allegedly Inflaming Ethnic Violence in Ethiopia

The parent company of Facebook, Meta, was sued on Wednesday in Kenya’s High Court for allegedly encouraging hate speech, inciting ethnic conflict, and failing to moderate content in Eastern and Southern Africa.

The petitioners are Kenyan rights group Katiba Institute, Ethiopian researchers Fisseha Tekle and Abrham Meareg, whose father, Professor Meareg Amare, was killed during the Tigray War, weeks after some posts on Facebook incited violence against him. Facebook only removed them eight days after he was killed.

They claim the Meta-owned platform doesn’t have enough content moderators on the social site, alleging that it uses an algorithm that prioritises hateful content and that it acts more slowly to crises in Africa than elsewhere in the world.

Petitioners have asked Facebook to create a $1.6 billion compensation fund, eliminate viral hate speech, and staff their Kenya content moderation hub adequately.

Legal action has been taken against Meta and Sama, its primary subcontractor for content moderation in Africa, on multiple counts in Kenya, including forced labour and human trafficking, unfair labour relations, union busting, and failing to provide “appropriate” mental health and psychosocial support.

Speaking on the issue on the importance of human rights protection, the petitioners lawyer Mercy Mutemi of Nzili and Sumbi Advocates, said;

“Nairobi has become a Hub for Big Tech, and that’s notable. What we must fight against endlessly is Big Tech’s abuse of Nairobi as a base to export human suffering to Africans. Big Tech must put respect for human rights at the forefront; design AI in a way that puts people first, not profit; and resource that hub properly.”

“Not investing adequately in the African market has already caused Africans to die from unsafe systems. We know that a better Facebook is possible — because we have seen how preferentially they treat other markets. African Facebook users deserve better. More importantly, Africans deserve to be protected from the havoc caused by underinvesting in protection of human rights,” said Mutemi.

Facebook has been accused of “literally fanning ethnic violence” in Ethiopia by whistleblower Frances Haugen, while a recent analysis by Global Witness found that the social media platform is “very weak at detecting hate speech in the predominant language of Ethiopia.”

While Meta announced in a blog post in November last year that protecting users in Ethiopia was the “highest priorities for country-specific interventions to keep people safe given the risk of conflict,” researchers have found that the company is not effectively removing hate speech from Ethiopian sites.

A Wall Street Journal report confirmed that Facebook employees have voiced concerns about the platform’s use in poor countries.

In summary, the petitioners are arguing that Meta’s actions constitute a violation of the Kenyan constitution, and they ask the court to force the firm to remove or demote posts that advocate violence or hatred.

In addition, they want Facebook to staff its content moderation centre in Nairobi, Kenya, with more people who can read and understand a wider variety of languages.

Finally, they have asked Meta to set up a $1.6 billion fund to compensate victims of hate and violence incited on Facebook, in addition to contributing $400 million to cover the damage done by sponsored posts.

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