Rohingya refugees from Myanmar are suing Meta Platforms Inc, formerly known as Facebook, for $150 billion over allegations that the social media company did not take action against anti-Rohingya hate speech that contributed to violence.
A U.S. class-action complaint, filed in California on Monday by law firms Edelson PC and Fields PLLC, argues that the company’s failures to police content and its platform’s design contributed to real-world violence faced by the Rohingya community. In a coordinated action, British lawyers also submitted a letter of notice to Facebook’s London office.
Facebook did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment about the lawsuit. The company has said it was “too slow to prevent misinformation and hate” in Myanmar and has said it has since taken steps to crack down on platform abuses in the region, including banning the military from Facebook and Instagram after the Feb. 1 coup.
Facebook has said it is protected from liability over content posted by users by a U.S. internet law known as Section 230, which holds that online platforms are not liable for content posted by third parties. The complaint says it seeks to apply Burmese law to the claims if Section 230 is raised as a defense.
Although U.S. courts can apply foreign law to cases where the alleged harms and activity by companies took place in other countries, two legal experts interviewed by Reuters said they did not know of a successful precedent for foreign law being invoked in lawsuits against social media companies where Section 230 protections could apply.
Anupam Chander, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center, said that invoking Burmese law wasn’t “inappropriate.” But he predicted that “It’s unlikely to be successful,” saying that “It would be odd for Congress to have foreclosed actions under U.S. law but permitted them to proceed under foreign law.”