Rohingya Refugees initiated PIL Against Facebook Seeking Content Moderation Ahead of 2024 Elections

Jan22,2024 #Delhi High Court #Facebook
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Published on: January 22, 2024 at 11:00 IST

Two Rohingya refugees have initiated a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Delhi High Court, urging the court to instruct the social networking giant Facebook, now known as Meta, to curb hateful and inflammatory content directed towards the Rohingya community.

The PIL seeks court orders to compel Facebook to cease using virality and ranking algorithms that fuel hate speech and violence against minority communities.

Scheduled for later this month, the High Court will hear the petition filed by Mohammad Hamim and Kawsar Mohammed, who fled persecution in Myanmar and arrived in India in July 2018 and March 2022, respectively.

Advocate Kawalpreet Kaur, representing the petitioners, alleges in the plea that Facebook harbors widespread misinformation, harmful content, and posts originating in India that target Rohingya refugees.

The petition asserts evidence showing that the platform intentionally refrains from taking action against such posts and, in fact, promotes such content through its algorithms.

Highlighting the politicization of the presence of Rohingya refugees in India, the plea emphasizes the disproportionate targeting of the community on Facebook, painting them as a threat to India and using terms like ‘terrorists’ and ‘infiltrators.’

The petition argues that with the 2024 general elections approaching, there is a high risk of harmful content and misinformation on Facebook leading to violence against the Rohingya community.

Referring to a 2019 study by Equality Lab on hate speech on Facebook in India, the petition notes that 6 percent of Islamophobic posts were specifically anti-Rohingya, despite the Rohingya comprising only 0.02 percent of India’s Muslim population.

The plea contends that Facebook’s failure to act against users promoting hate speech and its lack of proactive measures to control such content jeopardize the lives of Rohingyas, violating their right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution.

The petitioners argue that Facebook is violating Section 79(3) of the Information Technology Act along with Rule 3 of the Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules 2011, which deals with the due diligence to be observed by intermediaries in discharging their duties.

Hamim and Mohammed seek Court directives for Meta to suspend accounts promoting hate against the Rohingya community and to transparently report how it applies content moderation policies to flagged content.

The petition also demands an India-specific report on hate speech content moderation, including details on the removal and appeal process.

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