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New lawsuit accuses Meta of inflaming Ethiopia’s civil war

New lawsuit accuses Meta of inflaming Ethiopia’s civil war

November 3, 2021, Meareg Amare, a chemistry professor at Bahir Dar University in Ethiopia, was shot dead outside his home. Amare, who was of Tigrayan descent, had been targeted in a series of Facebook posts the previous month alleging he had stolen college equipment, sold it and used the proceeds to purchase property. In the comments, netizens called for his death. Amare’s son, researcher Abrham Amare, appealed to Facebook to have the posts removed, but heard nothing for weeks. Eight days after his father’s murder, Abrham received a response from Facebook that one of the posts targeting his father, shared by a page with more than 50,000 followers, had been deleted.

“I hold Facebook personally responsible for my father’s murder,” he said.

Today, Abrham, along with fellow researchers and Amnesty International legal adviser Fisseha Tekle, filed a lawsuit against Meta in Kenya, alleging the company allowed hate speech to spread on the platform. -shape, causing widespread violence. The lawsuit asks the company to deprioritize hateful content in the platform’s algorithm and add to its content moderation staff.

“Facebook can no longer be allowed to prioritize profit over our communities. Like radio in Rwanda, Facebook has fanned the flames of war in Ethiopia,” says Rosa Curling, Director of Foxglove, a UK-based nonprofit that tackles human rights abuses by global tech giants. The association supports the petition. “The company has clear tools — adjust its algorithms to downgrade viral hate, hire more local staff, and ensure they are well paid and their work is safe and fair — to prevent this from continuing. “

Since 2020, Ethiopia has been embroiled in civil war. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed responded to attacks on federal military bases by sending troops to Tigray, a northern region of the country that borders neighboring Eritrea. an april report published by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch found substantial evidence of crimes against humanity and a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Tigrayans by Ethiopian government forces.

Fisseha Tekle, Amnesty International’s senior researcher on Ethiopia, further implicated Facebook in the spread of abusive content which the petition claims endangered the lives of her family. Since 2021, Amnesty and Tekle have drawn widespread rebukes from supporters of the Ethiopian campaign in Tigray, ostensibly not to blame wartime atrocities on the feet of Tigray separatists. In fact, Tekle’s research into the countless crimes against humanity amid the conflict has pointed to belligerents on all sides, finding the separatists and the Ethiopian federal government mutually guilty of systematic murder and rape of civilians. Tekle told reporters at a press conference in October: “There is no innocent party that has not committed human rights abuses in this conflict.

In a statement shared by Foxglove with WIRED, Tekle spoke about witnessing Facebook’s alleged role in the tarnished research aimed at bringing to light government-sponsored killings, describing social media platforms perpetuating hate and misinformation as corrosive to the work of human rights defenders.

Facebook, which is used by more than 6 million people in Ethiopia, has been a key avenue through which narratives targeting and dehumanizing Tigrayans have spread. In a July 2021 Facebook Publish who remains on the platform, Prime Minister Ahmed called the Tigrayan rebels “weeds” to be pulled out. However, the Facebook papers revealed that the company lacked the ability to properly moderate content in most more than 45 languages.

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