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Meta sued for its role in Ethiopia’s Tigray War

The plaintiffs are seeking $2 billion for global victims of violence incited on Facebook.

Meta the owner of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp has been sued in Kenya’s High Court for allegedly fueling the recently-ended conflict in the Tigray region of Ethiopia.

The lawsuit was filed earlier this week by the rights group Katiba Institute and two Ethiopian researchers Fisseha Tekle and Abrham Meareg, whose father Professor Meareg Amare Abrha, a Tigrian academic was killed in the war.

According to the petitioners, Abrha was killed after Facebook posts referring to him using ethnic slurs were published in October 2021.

The posts, the petitioners claim, shared Abrha address and called for his death. Although Abrha’s son Meareg reported the posts to Facebook, the company declined to remove them promptly or took no action at all. His father was shot dead shortly after in November last year.

“If Facebook had just stopped the spread of hate and moderated posts properly, my father would still be alive,” said Meareg.

“I’m taking Facebook to court so no one ever suffers as my family has again. I’m seeking justice for millions of my fellow Africans hurt by Facebook’s profiteering – and an apology for my father’s murder,” he added.

This isn’t the first time Facebook is coming under criticism for failing to enhance content-moderation mechanisms in war-torn areas. Similar accusations have been levelled against the social media company in  Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Cambodia.

Erin McPike, a spokesperson from Meta said, “We invest heavily in teams and technology to help us find and remove this content.”

“We employ staff with local knowledge and expertise and continue to develop our capabilities to catch violating content in the most widely spoken languages in Ethiopia.”

The plaintiffs are seeking $2 billion for global victims of violence incited on Facebook.

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Simon W Nderitu

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