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Rohingya refugees sue Meta over Facebook's contribution to genocide

A Facebook logo is displayed on a building in this illustration. (File photo)

A US-class action lawsuit says Facebook failed to quickly stop the spread of hate speech and dangerous misinformation against the Rohingya Muslim community during a state-sponsored military campaign that the United Nations said had genocidal intent.

The lawsuit was filed against the social network's parent company, Meta Platforms Inc (FB.O), on behalf of 10,000-plus Rohingya refugees in California on Monday.

The document, which asks for more than $150 billion in compensation, argues that Meta's failures to police content and its platform's design contributed to real-world violence faced by the Muslim community.

"Facebook is like a robot programmed with a singular mission: to grow," the court document states.

"The undeniable reality is that Facebook's growth, fueled by hate, division, and misinformation, has left hundreds of thousands of devastated Rohingya lives in its wake," it says.

"Not until 2018 — after the damage had been done — did Facebook executives… meekly admit that Facebook should and could have done more," the lawsuit says.

Back in August 2018, the tech giant began deleting and banning accounts of key individuals and organizations in Myanmar, acknowledging that its platform had been used to "foment division and incite offline violence."

In a coordinated action, British lawyers also submitted a letter of notice to Facebook's London office, saying that a similar complaint was expected to be filed in a British court next year.

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya people were forced to leave Myanmar because of the military-led crackdown against their community in 2017. Thousands were killed, raped, tortured, or arrested in the Myanmarese crackdown, perpetrated with "genocidal intent," according to the UN, which has described the community as the most persecuted minority in the world.

Myanmar does not recognize the Rohingya as citizens, saying they are nationals of Bangladesh, which in turn, says they are natives of Myanmar.

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