Following years of research and failed private conferences, Washington, DC, based civil rights group Muslim Advocates initiated legal proceedings against Facebook and its top executives Thursday for allowing anti-Muslim hate speech to “run rampant” on the social-media platform.
Muslim Advocates alleges in their complaint that by “seeding and cultivating anti-Muslim bigotry amongst its users,” Facebook executives have committed, aided, and abetted both fraudulent and negligent misrepresentation. The group claims that these misrepresentations also violate the DC Consumer Protection Procedures Act, which promotes “fair business practices” to protect DC consumers from misinformation.
The complaint cites several instances when Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress about Facebook’s policies against hate speech and misinformation. “We do not allow hate groups on Facebook,” Zuckerberg told the House Energy and Commerce Committee in April 2018. In October 2019 Zuckerberg testified before the House Committee on Financial Services, stating that if users post content “that can cause, that is calling for violence or could risk imminent physical harm,” that content is taken down.
Zuckerberg’s statements reflect Facebook’s hate speech ban found in the Community Standards, also referenced in the Muslim Advocates complaint.
According to the complaint Facebook users are daily “bombarded with harmful content that violates Facebook’s own policies on hate speech, bullying, harassment, dangerous organizations, and violence,” which leads to “disastrous real-world consequences” for Muslims:
Facebook has been used … to orchestrate the Rohingya genocide in Myanmar, mass murders of Muslims in India, and riots and murders in Sri Lanka that targeted Muslims for death. … Armed, anti-Muslim protests in the United States have been organized on Facebook event pages. The Christchurch, New Zealand, mosque massacres were live-streamed on Facebook. … If Facebook’s executives had enforced their own Community Standards and policies as they promised, a significant amount of the anti-Muslim hate and real-world damage could have been avoided.
When asked about the lawsuit, Facebook spokesman Andy Stone said: “We do not allow hate speech on Facebook and regularly work with experts, non-profits, and stakeholders to help make sure Facebook is a safe place for everyone, recognizing 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.”
Muslim Advocates attorney Mary Baue said: “What we’re saying in the lawsuit to Facebook is, ‘Do one of two things: Stop lying, or have your actions conform to your statements.'”