The Rohingya’s Genocide Suit Against Meta is Dismissed—For Now

Meta was sued for its alleged role in the Rohingya genocide. A California judge has asked lawyers to refile it.

Members of Bangladesh Student Rights Council (BSRC) take part in a protest in Dhaka
More than 700,000 Rohingya people were displaced in 2017. AFP via Getty Images

The lawsuit against Meta (META) in response to the Rohingya genocide was dismissed in a California court Dec. 14, although the plaintiff will be allowed amend and refile her suit.

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In December 2021, Jane Doe, an individual on behalf of the Rohingya people, a minority group in Myanmar, filed a lawsuit against Meta for its alleged role in inciting violence that led to a genocide. The suit accuses Meta, which owns Facebook (META) and Instagram, of financially benefitting from clickbait and fake news that pushed anti-Rohingya narratives and ignored the risks of doing so. The plaintiff sued for negligence and strict product liability, or the responsibility for injuries due to a defective product.

The result of the lawsuit could set a precedent for social media companies’ responsibility to moderate content on an international level. Meta admitted it didn’t do enough to prevent violence against the Rohingya prior to 2018. The company did not respond to a request for comment.

In the court order, Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers rejected the plaintiff’s negligence and strict product liability claims. The lawsuit fails to connect Facebook’s platform to the alleged injury the plaintiff experienced due to an attack on her village by the Myanmar military, she ruled. Facebook is also not defined as a product in California, so the plaintiff cannot claim strict product liability. Personal injury claims must also be filed within two years of the event, and the plaintiff’s injury happened in 2012—outside the acceptable window of time. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act also gives immunity to platforms like Facebook that publish third-party content. Doe’s team will have 90 days to refile their case.

With today’s ruling, “we get a second bite of the apple,” said Richard Fields, a lawyer for the plaintiff. It’s not a negative ruling, but it gives them a change to try again, he said.

The decision for a judge to dismiss a case and ask it to be refiled is common in complex litigation, he said. The U.S. Supreme Court’s is ruling on Gonzalez v. Google—a case that could set a new precedent for how Section 230 is applied to platforms—sometime next year, which will have a huge impact on how Field’s case plays out, he said.

The Rohingya’s Genocide Suit Against Meta is Dismissed—For Now