US federal judge Zia Faruqui ordered Facebook, Inc. on Wednesday to produce documents relating to its involvement in anti-Rohingya violence in Myanmar.
The Gambia brought a genocide claim against Facebook before the International Court of Justice alleging that Facebook played a key role in Myanmar’s genocide attempt on the Rohingya, an ethnic and religious minority. The Gambia then filed suit against Facebook in the District of Columbia, under 28 USC § 1782, seeking certain documentation. Facebook admitted that it failed to respond in a timely manner to concerns about its role in Rohingya genocide. Facebook also confirmed that it removed Myanmar government agents’ accounts and content during the ongoing attack.
In court, The Gambia sought access to the deleted Facebook content. It alleged that as the Rohingya genocide was occurring, Facebook continued exposing millions of people in Myanmar with poor digital literacy to democracy and human rights concepts. Gambia alleged that Myanmar officials exploited peoples’ lacking digital literacy by using Facebook to spread misinformation and rumors about people and events.
Facebook countered that Gambia’s request for documents violated Facebook’s right to privacy under the Stored Communications Act and that The Gambia’s request was unduly burdensome. Still, the judge rejected Facebook’s privacy argument and said, “Facebook taking up the mantle of privacy rights is rich with irony.” Hence, The Gambia succeeded in convincing the court to allow it access to Facebook’s “de-platformed content and related internal investigation documents.”
The court hopes Facebook’s “records will illuminate how Facebook connected the seemingly unrelated inauthentic accounts to Myanmar government officials.” The court said, “Facebook’s internal investigation data—to the extent it exists—maybe even more significant to The Gambia’s ability to prove genocidal intent.”
Earlier this year, Muslim advocates sued facebook alleging that Facebook violated the DC Consumer Protection Procedures Act when it committed, aided, and abetted both fraudulent and negligent misrepresentation of Muslims. About a week later, US Senators introduced the Rohingya Genocide Determination Act of 2021 to determine whether Myanmar’s military “clearance operations” on the Rohingya constitute genocide.