Facebook parent company Meta faces a class-action lawsuit in Kenya

By , K24 Digital
On Wed, 14 Dec, 2022 12:46 | 2 mins read
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg loses Ksh1.3 trillion as his fortune plummets
Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg. PHOTO/Courtesy.

Facebook parent company Meta faces a class-action lawsuit in Kenya over allegations of discrimination based on the operation of its algorithms.

In a statement to the press seen by K24 Digital, two Ethiopian researchers and a civil society group Katiba Institute are expected to file a case at Milimani Law courts, Nairobi on Wednesday, December 14, 2022 where they are seeking fundamental changes to Facebook’s algorithm, which is alleged to fuel viral hate and violence online with offline consequences.

The petitioners accuse Facebook of causing death, displacement of families, vilification of individuals and destruction of communities in Kenya and across Africa.

The intended lawsuit by petitioners Ethiopian researchers Abrham Meareg and Fisseha Tekle and Katiba Institute accuses Meta of enabling violent and hateful posts from Ethiopia to flourish on Facebook, inflaming the country's bloody civil war.

"The case alleges that Meta’s failure to deal with core safety issues has fanned conflict and killed people – especially in Ethiopia’s civil war, which has claimed some 500,000 lives, and additionally harmed 500 million more people across Eastern and Southern Africa," reads the statement.

They accuse Meta of several violations of the Kenyan Constitution in the course of its operations in Kenya, and in the region.

Ksh200 billion restitution

The petitioners state that in the intended suit, to be lodged before the High court today, will be seeking among others an order compelling Meta to take emergency steps to demote violent content, increase moderation staff in Nairobi and create restitution funds of about Ksh200 billion for victims of violence incited on Facebook.

"The Petition seeks a series of Court orders that would, in effect, end Facebook’s systemic discrimination against African users. It asks the court to order that Facebook must create a restitution fund of Ksh200 billion (approximately $1.6bn) for victims of hate and violence incited on Facebook, and a further Ksh 50 billion (approximately $400m) for similar harm from sponsored posts," reads the statement.

They allege that Facebook's recommendations systems amplified violent posts in Ethiopia, including several that preceded the murder of the father of one of the researchers.

Meareg claims in the lawsuit that his father, Meareg Amare Abrha, a Tigrayan professor, was gunned down in November 2021 after he was targeted on Facebook with hateful and inaccurate posts.

He says he tried to get Facebook to remove some of the problematic content — including a post with a photo of his father — but he didn’t receive a response until after his father was killed.

“If Facebook had just stopped the spread of hate and moderated posts properly, my father would still be alive,” he said in a statement. “I’m seeking justice for millions of my fellow Africans hurt by Facebook’s profiteering — and an apology for my father’s murder.”

Meareg, Tekle and Katiba Institute are moving to court to specifically seek to have Meta held accountable for contributing to the loss of lives, displacement of families, vilification of individuals and destruction of communities.

Through sworn affidavits, they seek to demonstrate to the court how Facebook’s moderation failures in Nairobi have led to the murder of, among many others.

Further, it is said that the company failed to exercise reasonable care in training its algorithms to identify dangerous posts and in hiring staff to police content for the languages covered by its regional moderation hub in Nairobi.

Related Topics