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Monday, May 10, 2021

Facebook sued over ‘failure to censor anti-Muslim hate speech’

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A US-based Muslim advocacy group is suing Facebook over alleged failure to monitor content that violates its policies, especially anti-Muslim hate speech and threats. 

Non-profit group Muslim Advocates took legal action against Facebook Inc. over allegations that it has failed to enforce its own policies in monitoring hate speech, which the group says has led to a continued anti-Muslim smear campaign on its platform. 

The advocacy group for Muslim Americans filed a lawsuit in Superior Court in Washington on Thursday, alleging that the social media giant misled the US Congress and lawmakers by falsely promising it would remove content that violates its moderation policies. 

The lawsuit, filed in Washington’s District of Columbia Superior Court claims Facebook, Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg, Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg and other executives violated the district’s consumer protection law through their statements about removing rule-breaking content, Reuters reported.

The report noted that pages and groups with names comparing Muslims to ‘filth’ and calling to ‘unite against,’ ‘purge’ or ‘wipe out’ Islam were among those on the advocates’ radar. 

“Every day, ordinary people are bombarded with harmful content that violates Facebook’s own policies on hate speech, bullying, harassment, dangerous organisations, and violence,” according to the suit. “Hateful, anti-Muslim attacks are especially pervasive.”

Social media giants Facebook, Twitter and Youtube have long faced scrutiny for how they deal with hate speech, violent content and other abuses on their platforms.

“In July 2020, Facebook published a civil rights audit commissioned by the company which said it should invest more resources to study and address organised hate against Muslims and other targeted groups on the platform,” Reuters stated. 

A Facebook spokesman stressed that the company does not tolerate hate speech on its platform “and regularly work with experts, non-profits, and stakeholders to help make sure Facebook is a safe place for everyone, recognising anti-Muslim rhetoric can take different forms.

“We have invested in AI technologies to take down hate speech, and we proactively detect 97 percent of what we remove.”

Read also: Leaked LinkedIn data is being sold for Bitcoins online: report

Zuckerberg says his company takes down pages that violate Facebook’s policies, including posts that call for violence or could risk imminent physical harm.

The Muslim Advocates group is one of several civil rights organisations that have urged the social media giant to do more to stop anti-Muslim bigotry and bring to an end white supremacist content.

Days after the Capitol riot in January, the advocates called on Facebook to permanently kick former president Donald Trump off its platform for spreading “white nationalist hate and conspiracy theories.”

The plaintiff said it presented Facebook in 2017 with a list of 26 pages showcasing pages and accounts that have committed a series of violations. To date, 18 of those 26 groups are still active Facebook users, the advocates claimed.

“The advocacy group is seeking monetary damages as well as a court declaration that Facebook broke the law in Washington,” the report stated. 


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