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Kenya: Meta Sued for $1.6 Billion USD for Fuelling Ethiopia Ethnic Violence

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By Amnesty International 

Meta must reform its business practices to ensure Facebook’s algorithms do not amplify hatred and fuel ethnic conflict, Amnesty International said today in the wake of a landmark legal action against Meta submitted in Kenya’s High Court.

The legal action claims that Meta promoted speech that led to ethnic violence and killings in Ethiopia by utilizing an algorithm that prioritizes and recommends hateful and violent content on Facebook. The petitioners seek to stop Facebook’s algorithms from recommending such content to Facebook users and compel Meta to create a 200 billion ($1.6 billion USD) victims’ fund. Amnesty International joins six other human rights and legal organizations as interested parties in the case.

“The spread of dangerous content on Facebook lies at the heart of Meta’s pursuit of profit, as its systems are designed to keep people engaged. This legal action is a significant step in holding Meta to account for its harmful business model,” said Flavia Mwangovya, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director of East Africa, Horn, and Great Lakes Region.

One of Amnesty’s staff members in the region was targeted as a result of posts on the social media platform.

“In Ethiopia, the people rely on social media for news and information. Because of the hate and disinformation on Facebook, human rights defenders have also become targets of threats and vitriol.    I saw first-hand how the dynamics on Facebook harmed my own human rights work and hope this case will redress the imbalance,” said Fisseha Tekle, legal advisor at Amnesty International.

Fisseha Tekle is one of the petitioners bringing the case, after being subjected to a stream of hateful posts on Facebook for his work exposing human rights violations in Ethiopia. An Ethiopian national, he now lives in Kenya, fears for his life and dare not return to Ethiopia to see his family because of the vitriol directed at him on Facebook.

Fatal failings

The legal action is also being brought by Abraham Meareg, the son of Meareg Amare, a University Professor at Bahir Dar University in northern Ethiopia, who was hunted down and killed in November 2021, weeks after posts inciting hatred and violence against him spread on Facebook. The case claims that Facebook only removed the hateful posts eight days after Professor Meareg’s killing, more than three weeks after his family had first alerted the company.

The Court has been informed that Abraham Meareg fears for his safety and is seeking asylum in the United States. His mother who fled to Addis Ababa is severely traumatized and screams every night in her sleep after witnessing her husband’s killing. The family had their home in Bahir Dar seized by regional police.

The harmful posts targeting Meareg Amare and Fisseha Tekle were not isolated cases.  The legal action alleges Facebook is awash with hateful, inciteful and dangerous posts in the context of the Ethiopia conflict.

Meta uses engagement-based algorithmic systems to power Facebook’s news feed, ranking, recommendations and groups features, shaping what is seen on the platform. Meta profits when Facebook users stay on the platform as long as possible, by selling more targeted advertising.

The display of inflammatory content – including that which advocates hatred, constituting incitement to violence, hostility and discrimination – is an effective way of keeping people on the platform longer. As such, the promotion and amplification of this type of content is key to the surveillance-based business model of Facebook.

Internal studies dating back to 2012 indicated that Meta knew its algorithms could result in serious real-world harms. In 2016, Meta’s own research clearly acknowledged that “our recommendation systems grow the problem” of extremism.

In September 2022, Amnesty International documented how Meta’s algorithms proactively amplified and promoted content which incited violence, hatred, and discrimination against the Rohingya in Myanmar and substantially increasing the risk of an outbreak of mass violence.

“From Ethiopia to Myanmar, Meta knew or should have known that its algorithmic systems were fuelling the spread of harmful content leading to serious real-world harms,” said Flavia Mwangovya.

“Meta has shown itself incapable to act to stem this tsunami of hate. Governments need to step up and enforce effective legislation to rein in the surveillance-based business models of tech companies.”

Deadly double standards

The legal action also claims that there is a disparity in Meta’s approach in crisis situations in Africa compared to elsewhere in the world, particularly North America. The company has the capability to implement special adjustments to its algorithms to quickly remove inflammatory content during a crisis. But despite being deployed elsewhere in the world, according to the petitioners none of these adjustments were made during the conflict in Ethiopia, ensuring harmful content continued to proliferate.

Internal Meta documents disclosed by whistle-blower Frances Haugen, known as the Facebook Papers, showed that the US $300 billion company also did not have sufficient content moderators who speak local languages. A report by Meta’s Oversight Board also raised concerns that Meta had not invested sufficient resources in moderating content in languages other than English.

“Meta has failed to adequately invest in content moderation in the Global South, meaning that the spread of hate, violence, and discrimination disproportionally impacts the most marginalized and oppressed communities across the world, and particularly in the Global South.”

Is the CEO/Founder of Investors King Limited. A proven foreign exchange research analyst and a published author on Yahoo Finance, Businessinsider, Nasdaq, Entrepreneur.com, Investorplace, and many more. He has over two decades of experience in global financial markets.

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Trump Media & Tech Group Plummets, Wiping Out $2.8 Billion in Value

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Trump Media & Technology Group Corp., the social media predominantly owned by former U.S. President Donald Trump, has lost $2.8 billion in market value in the last few days.

The tumultuous downturn comes as a wave of retail traders who once fervently boosted the stock have begun to offload their holdings.

The company, which encompasses the Truth Social platform, has seen its stock plummet by 36% since its closing high on March 26.

This nosedive not only erased the gains achieved in the aftermath of its merger with Digital World Acquisition Corp., but it also pushed the stock below its pre-merger trading levels.

Initially, Trump Media enjoyed a meteoric rise in its early days as a publicly traded entity following the merger with DWAC, the blank-check company facilitating the deal.

However, the allure of the stock among individual investors, who saw it as a means to express support for the former president’s potential 2024 reelection bid, has waned significantly.

As the stock continues its downward spiral, the once-projected paper windfall for Donald Trump himself has also dwindled.

Trump’s anticipated gains from the venture have plummeted by approximately $1.6 billion, leaving him with an estimated $2.9 billion in paper wealth.

However, realization of this wealth remains contingent upon a six-month lock-up agreement, delaying Trump’s ability to sell shares.

The timing of Trump Media’s downfall coincides with a flurry of legal troubles facing the former president. With just a week until the commencement of his first criminal trial in Manhattan, Trump faces charges related to falsifying business records in connection with hush money payments to a pornographic actress prior to the 2016 election.

Also, Trump is slated to undergo deposition in a civil lawsuit filed against him and Trump Media by two co-founders alleging share dilution prior to the merger.

Despite the substantial loss in value, Trump Media retains a market capitalization of approximately $5 billion, underscoring the paradoxical valuation dynamics in the current market environment.

The company’s meager revenue of $4.1 million in the preceding year contrasts sharply with its lofty market capitalization, raising concerns about the sustainability of its valuation.

The dramatic downturn of Trump Media & Technology Group mirrors the volatile trajectory of past meme stocks like GameStop Corp. and underscores the inherent risks associated with companies emerging from SPAC mergers.

As the company grapples with its dwindling valuation and mounting legal challenges, the future of Truth Social and its associated ventures remains uncertain in the ever-shifting landscape of the digital realm.

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TikTok Faces Existential Threat as US House Votes Overwhelmingly to Ban Unless Sold

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The US House of Representatives has voted overwhelmingly to ban TikTok unless its Chinese owner, ByteDance Ltd., sells the video-sharing app.

The measure, passed by a vote of 352 to 65, marks a significant escalation in the ongoing scrutiny of TikTok, which has come under fire over concerns about national security and data privacy.

The bill, if enacted into law, would require TikTok to divest its US operations within 180 days or face a ban from US app stores, including those run by Apple and Google.

This move represents the most serious challenge yet to TikTok, which boasts a massive user base of 170 million Americans but has been criticized by some lawmakers as a potential national-security threat due to its Chinese ownership.

President Joe Biden has signaled his support for the legislation, stating that he would sign it into law if it passes the Senate.

However, the bill’s fate in the Senate remains uncertain, with Majority Leader Chuck Schumer yet to endorse it and some members, including Republican Rand Paul, expressing opposition.

TikTok has vehemently opposed the proposed ban, arguing that it would violate the First Amendment and have a detrimental impact on the economy, small businesses, and the millions of Americans who use the platform.

The company has also faced accusations of being a tool for Chinese propaganda, although it has consistently denied sharing user data with the Chinese government.

The House passage of the bill comes just days after its introduction, reflecting growing bipartisan concern over TikTok’s influence and potential risks to national security.

The swift action underscores the urgency with which lawmakers are seeking to address these concerns and highlights the mounting pressure on TikTok to address them or face significant consequences.

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Reddit Eyes $748 Million in Landmark Initial Public Offering

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Reddit Inc. is setting its sights on a colossal initial public offering (IPO) aiming to raise $748 million.

This ambitious move represents one of the most significant IPOs of the year as Reddit looks to capitalize on its vast user base and unique market position.

The social media giant, beloved for its diverse forums and vibrant community discussions, plans to offer 22 million shares at a price range of $31 to $34 each, according to sources familiar with the matter.

If successful, this would catapult Reddit’s valuation to as high as $6.5 billion, solidifying its status as a major player in the digital landscape.

What sets Reddit’s IPO apart is its innovative approach to shareholder inclusion. The company intends to reserve approximately 1.76 million shares exclusively for its dedicated users and moderators who created accounts before January 1st.

This groundbreaking move not only fosters a sense of community ownership but also underscores Reddit’s commitment to its grassroots origins.

Despite its meteoric rise, Reddit has faced its fair share of challenges.

From navigating volatile market conditions to addressing user concerns over content moderation and profitability, the company has weathered storms while staying true to its core values.

With heavyweight investment banks like Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, and Bank of America spearheading the IPO, anticipation surrounding Reddit’s market debut is palpable.

As the company prepares to trade under the symbol RDDT on the New York Stock Exchange, all eyes are on Reddit, poised to witness history in the making.

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