Ethiopian lawyers are looking to serve Facebook outside of Kenya in order to compel the social media giant to stop amplifying violent, hateful and inciteful posts. This is the latest case that seeks to compel Facebook to stop amplifying content that has led to human rights abuses and left over half-a-million people dead during the Tigray War. The plaintiffs allege that by allowing such content on its platform, Facebook is complicit in these atrocities. The move comes as other companies – such as Twitter – race against time to address their own dismally high rates of toxicity on their networks.
The granting of leave to serve Meta in California could signal a change in the legal status of virtual companies and how they are treated by law. Virtual companies, such as Meta, rely on their remote employees to do their work and often do not have physical offices. This leaves them vulnerable to being sued if something goes wrong with their operations or if someone is wronged by the company. Grants of leave like this may help protect virtual companies from lawsuits in the future and make them more viable modes of business.
The lawsuit alleges that the social media platform actively encouraged violence and harassment against Professor Meareg Amare Abrha, killing him as a direct result. This decision lays the groundwork for future lawsuits that may hold Facebook responsible for the deaths of Ethiopians due to its negligence.
The petitioners are urging Facebook to dedicate more resources to content moderation and compensate victims of hate speech. Meta, the company responsible for moderation at Facebook based in Kenya, is reportedly doing a poor job at both tasks. The petitioners argue that this creates an environment where hate speech flourishes unchecked and leads to violence against vulnerable groups. They are asking Facebook to invest more money in content review efforts and create a compensation fund of $1.6 billion for victims of online abuse.
The petitioners allege that Facebook’s algorithm amplified hateful and inciteful posts that drew more interactions and kept users logged in for longer. This disproportionately affected marginalized communities, who were more likely to see the inflammatory posts. This created a heightened sense of anxiety and isolation for these users, who relied on Facebook as a source of community.
The article claims that Facebook neglected to invest in human content review at its hub in Kenya, which resulted in lives being put at risk. This neglect was most evident when posts containing hateful language or comments that violated the company’s community standards were allowed to remain on the site. In some cases, posts were even reinstated after being removed initially. This shows just how badly Facebook needs to improve its content review processes if it wants to retain users and maintain their trust.
While content moderation is an important part of ensuring the safety of people using online platforms, it can also be flawed. In a recent case, for example, Meareg’s family experienced firsthand how flawed content moderation could endanger their lives and break up families. His mother was banned from Facebook after reporting posts that threatened her safety. Without access to social media, Meareg’s family had to rely on phone calls and other forms of communication to stay in touch.
Meta’s father was killed after he repeatedly asked his son to take down posts targeting him and other Tigrayans, who were calling for a massacre against the ethnic group. The Tigray War, which lasted for two years, started in November 2020 after the Ethiopian army clashed with Tigray forces. Over 600,000 people died during the war resulting in immense trauma and lost lives.
Facebook Post-Truth Ethics
Consider how social media affects the way people think and feel. Our lives are constantly streamrolled by updates on our phones and computers, but what Kanika’s father points out is that when we allow these platforms to consume us, they can have devastating consequences. A lot of research has been done on how social media can lead to depression, anxiety and other mental health problems, but what Kanika’s story highlights is the ways in which it can be used as a tool of violence and hatred as well. When we are constantly surrounded by positive thoughts and pictures on social media sites, it can be hard to step away from them into the reality that there are sick people out there intent on hurting others.
The meta declined to comment on their position on the issue at hand. However, there are many arguments that could be made in favor of either side of
Meareg is not the only person who has had problems with Facebook. Numerous people have reported posts containing graphic images and violence, but their reports have allegedly gone ignored. In December of last year, Meareg took his case to court, claiming that Facebook had violated his privacy by displaying the posts he made about gruesome incidents on their site. Though he still faces legal challenges, it’s clear that Facebook – and other social media sites – need to start taking online harassment more seriously if they want to avoid having lengthy lawsuits on their hands.
Though Facebook defended its content moderation procedures, the company admitted that it could do better. One issue is that the hub in Kenya has only 25 moderators responsible for Amharic, Tigrinya and Oromo content, which left out 82 other languages without personnel to moderate. This can lead to inaccurate and offensive posts being allowed on the site.
When it comes to hate speech on the internet, Meta is an all-star player. The company employs teams and technology to help it remove hate speech and incitement, and has partners and staff with local knowledge to help it develop methods to catch violating content. Meta also maintains a strong stance against any type of discriminatory or hateful language, even going so far as publicly shaming violators online. This ensures that the overwhelming majority of content on meta.com is respectful and conducive to ethical discourse – something that’s sure to appeal not only to busy internet users but also advertisers who look for sites that can deliver positive results without disrupting normal business operations.
In order to prevent Facebook from becoming a tool for inciting violence, the company must take a proactive approach and ban hate groups and content that promotes violence.
Ethiopia is one of the most important countries in the Horn of Africa, and its ethnically diverse population has made it a volatile region. Facebook has been criticized for fueling violence through its pages in Ethiopia, but it appears that this problem is not limited to one company. Twitter has also been accused of promoting violence and hate speech, leading to increased tensions between different groups in Ethiopia. It remains to be seen how these companies will address these issues moving forward, but changes need to be made if Ethiopian communities are going to feel safe on social media platforms.
Since early February, social media platforms like Facebook have been blocked in Ethiopia after state-led plans to split the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewhado Church caused anti-government protests. The country remains one of the few in the world that still lacks access to a variety of popular social media tools, and its inhabitants are unable to share their opinions or experiences freely. It is unclear what consequences this will have for Ethiopia’s already tense relationship with its citizenry, but it is likely that the population will continue to push for freedom of speech and expression through more creative means.
Adding to Meta’s troubles in Kenya
Meta is facing three lawsuits in Kenya because the company allegedly failed to pay workers their minimum wage and overtime. Two of the lawsuits were filed by Meta employees, and one was filed by a labor
At the center of the controversy are allegations that Amazon Web Services (AWS), the company’s content review partner in sub-Saharan Africa, exploited and forced unionization of its workers in Kenya. In May, Daniel Motaung, a former content moderator for Sama—the company that partnered with AWS to provide online moderation services—sued both AWS and Sama for exploitation and union busting. The suit alleges that both parties engaged in illegal practices such as payroll padding, unlawful firings, and requiring workers to sign unfair labor contracts. According to Motaung’s lawsuit, these conditions created an environment where employees were little more
The plaintiff, Motaung, claimed that he was fired by Sama for organizing a 2019 strike that sought to unionize Sama’s employees. He was suing Meta and Sama for forced labor, exploitation, human trafficking, unfair labor relations, union busting and failure to provide “adequate” mental health and psychosocial support.
One of the social media giants at the center of a lawsuit in Kenya has appealed against a court decision that found it responsible for actions taken by its employees in that country. The company, Meta, has argued that its Kenyan subsidiary is not its employee and therefore does not have to answer for their actions. However, the court ruled that aspects of how Meta operates in Kenya make it liable for what happens on its platform, and so it will have to answer the charges. The case is still ongoing, with Meta appealing against the original court decision.
Meta’s alleged conduct towards its former content reviewers has raised worries that the company is working to retaliate against those who criticized it. If Meta is found guilty of unlawful layoffs and blacklisting, it could face steep fines and penalties.
Meta, Sama and Majorel are now facing human rights violations in Kenya. Their employer, Meta, is seeking to have the case dismissed on the grounds that it has no jurisdiction over employee-employer disputes. However, last week the Kenyan court said that it had jurisdiction over these matters and could therefore enforce any human rights violations by Meta. This could mean a dangerous situation for all three parties involved.