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Civil rights group sues Facebook over anti-Muslim posts

'Hateful, anti-Muslim attacks are especially pervasive on Facebook,' the lawsuit alleges.

The national civil rights organization Muslim Advocates filed a lawsuit against Facebook, claiming the platform failed to remove anti-Muslim content. Image by Simon from Pixabay/Creative Commons

(RNS) — A lawsuit filed by the national civil rights organization Muslim Advocates complains that Facebook deceived Congress, civil rights groups and consumers by failing to take down anti-Muslim posts that the group said violate the platform’s own standards.

The complaint, filed Thursday (April 8) in D.C. Superior Court, claims that the world’s largest social platform and its lead executives violated the Consumer Protection Procedures Act by misrepresenting its own policy.

“Every day, ordinary people are bombarded with harmful content in violation of Facebook’s own policies on hate speech, bullying, harassment, dangerous organizations, and violence. Hateful, anti-Muslim attacks are especially pervasive on Facebook,” the lawsuit reads.

A Facebook spokesperson in a statement 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,” according to news reports.


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In 2017, Muslim Advocates presented Facebook with a list of 26 groups whose pages and posted content violated the platform’s community standards and “that were inconsistent with specific statements and standards that Facebook officials had articulated,” the lawsuit reads.

“For years, we have warned Facebook about the barrage of anti-Muslim hate and violent threats that proliferate on their platform — and violate the company’s own policies,” said Mary Bauer, legal director for Muslim Advocates, in a statement. “Facebook executives repeatedly testify before Congress and reassure consumers that they remove content that violates their community standards or other policies and practices. But they don’t.”

Muslim Advocates, in the lawsuit, said anti-Muslim posts allowed on Facebook have caused real-life harm.

It noted that a United Nations fact-finding mission found that Facebook played a “‘determining role’ in stirring up hatred against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.”

The group also mentioned the 2019 Christchurch, New Zealand, mosque massacres that were livestreamed on Facebook, with those videos being shared “by untold numbers worldwide, despite Facebook’s knowledge that the videos were being shared.”


RELATED: Islamophobia on the rise, according to United Nations report


This isn’t the first time Muslim Advocates has publicly sounded the alarm over hateful content on Facebook.

In October 2020, Muslim Advocates and the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism released a report, “Complicit: The Human Cost of Facebook’s Disregard for Muslim Life,” that found Facebook has played a role in anti-Muslim violence in Germany, Sweden, New Zealand and the United States.

Facebook, according to the report, ignored five years of warnings that event pages on its site were being used to promote violence.

Since then, the report said, “anti-Muslim hate groups and hate speech run rampant on Facebook with anti-Muslim posts, ads, private groups, and other content.”