Two Ethiopians who have sued Meta Platforms over claims of fueling violence in East Africa by failing to moderate inciteful messages posted on Facebook want to be allowed to serve the social media giant outside Kenya.
Appearing before High Court judge Mugure Thande Thursday morning, Mr Abrham Meareg and Fisseha Tekle sought permission to serve the Facebook owners outside the country.
The company has argued in two other cases that it is a foreign entity that does not trade in the country, and therefore Kenyan courts do not have jurisdiction.
Judge Thande directed lawyer Mercy Mutemi, representing the Ethiopians, to serve Meta with the application. The case will be mentioned on June 15 for directions.
At the same time, the court allowed Katiba Institute, a rights group, among other interested parties, to join the case.
In the petition, Mr Abrham says his father, Prof Meareg Amare Abrha, was killed in November last year amid the war between the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) after a Facebook post profiled and accused him of associating with the Tigrayan rebel group.
Mr Tekle, a legal advisor at Amnesty International, says human rights groups cannot protect people’s rights if social media, which people rely on for news and connection, fuels hate and disinformation.
They accused the social media giant of treating Facebook users in Kenya and other African countries differently from users in other nations, especially in times of conflict.
“Facebook users having noted that inciteful, hateful and dangerous content gets them more visibility, are incentivised to post more of the same. The darker the content, the higher the likelihood it will be prioritised,” the petition reads.
Ms Mutemi says Facebook’s software design choices – how it organises its social media algorithm – have caused hatred and incitement to violence to go viral repeatedly, fuelling real-world attacks in Ethiopia.
The petitioners have demanded historic safety changes to Facebook – including adjustments to Facebook’s algorithm to protect users.
She says Facebook is required to hire and value sufficient numbers of safety staff and create a restitution fund for victims of viral hate in the Ethiopian war, which claimed more than 500,000 lives.
The petitioners are seeking more than Sh250 billion from Meta to compensate victims of hate and violence allegedly fueled by the social media giant.
The two-year conflict in the northern Tigray region between the government and Tigrayan forces ended last November with thousands dead and millions uprooted.