Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Sam Rainsy files lawsuit against Facebook




Sam Rainsy files lawsuit against Facebook

Former opposition leader Sam Rainsy gives an interview on French TV5 Monde televison network in France in December. Photo supplied
Former opposition leader Sam Rainsy gives an interview on French TV5 Monde televison network in France in December. Photo supplied

Sam Rainsy files lawsuit against Facebook

Former opposition leader Sam Rainsy has filed a landmark lawsuit against Facebook, seeking to force it to provide information about the account of Prime Minister Hun Sen at a time when the social media giant’s role in the political process has increasingly been called into question.

The application, a request for permission to serve Facebook with a subpoena for discovery, claims that Hun Sen has violated multiple Facebook policies, including buying “likes” and making death threats.

“There is significant evidence that Hun and his agents have systematically misused Facebook’s platform in violation of its policies, principles, and community standards,” the document reads.

The application, the first of its kind, claims the information sought in the lawsuit filed on Thursday will aid Rainsy’s legal defence in Cambodia, where he has been convicted of defamation for accusing the premier of buying Facebook likes.

The document refers to a 2016 article by The Post, which revealed that many of the premier’s Facebook likes were coming from outside the country, with sharp spikes occurring in countries like India, where he gained more than 250,000 in one month. “Mr. Sam’s federal Petition seeks information in Facebook’s possession regarding Hun Sen’s misuse of social media to deceive Cambodia’s electorate and to commit human rights abuses,” an accompanying press release said.

Rainsy fled the country in 2015 amid a slew of politically tinged convictions, many of them for defamation, and his former party was forcibly dissolved last year to widespread international outcry.Government spokesman Phay Siphan said the lawsuit amounted to “harassment” and that Rainsy was a has-been.

“I don’t make any mention of Sam Rainsy,” he said.

Rainsy’s lawsuit asks Facebook for information including the amount of “state money” spent to advertise on the platform. The application claims that according to Hun Sen’s “own communications”, his administration spends as much as $15,000 a day in generating fake likes and advertising.

It also accuses Hun Sen of using Facebook to make death threats against Rainsy and others, stating that “these activities violate Facebook’s policies and terms of use”. “We are counting on Facebook to help shed light on the regime’s manipulation of technology,” Rainsy said in the statement. “The Cambodian people and international community deserve the truth.”

“The issues raised in the lawsuit ask fundamental questions about Facebook’s role in the democratic process, including how it will react when being misused by repressive regimes,” said J Noah Hagey, Rainsy’s attorney.

Representatives from Facebook did not respond to requests for comment.

Facebook has come under fire for its role in spreading fake news, amplifying authoritarian government propaganda and sidelining independent voices with its new “Explore” feed. Cambodia was one of a handful of countries selected for the Explore field “experiment”, whereby official pages were relegated to a separate section of the News Feed, unless they paid a fee.

“Facebook were contacted in 2016 and made aware that Hun Sen was buying likes to give a false impression of his popularity and that this could influence the next election,” said Richard Rogers, one of Rainsy’s legal representatives with Gobal Diligence law firm.

“Hun’s account(s) remain active, and he continues to misuse Facebook in a manner which overtly violates Facebook’s formal Policies,” the suit claims.

MOST VIEWED

  • Chikungunya hits 15 provinces, says gov’t

    Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandine said on Thursday that the chikungunya outbreak in the Kingdom has spread to 15 provinces. Some 1,700 people are now suspected to have the disease. Vandine urged people to prevent its further spread by eliminating shelters for the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes

  • Body of woman killed in Bangkok returns

    The Cambodian embassy in Thailand is working to repatriate the body of a casino dealer who was shot dead in Bangkok on Monday night. Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation spokesman Kuy Kuong told The Post on Wednesday that officials are preparing paperwork to

  • Gov’t exempts visa A and B holders from Covid fees

    Airline passengers who are diplomats and officials of international organisations holding Type A and B visas for travel to Cambodia are exempted from paying Covid-19 testing fees, said the Ministry of Health in its latest adjustment of rules on Wednesday. Health Minister Mam Bun Heng

  • All inbound flights set to face added scrutiny

    Ministry of Health spokesperson Or Vandine said on Monday that the ministry is monitoring all inbound flights, after it was announced that only those from Malaysia and Indonesia will be temporarily cancelled from August 1. Vandine said on Monday that the two countries were identified as

  • Flights from Indonesia, Malaysia cancelled

    A Ministry of Health official has warned of the possibility of Covid-19 spreading through community transmission after the total infected cases in the Kingdom rose to 225. Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine told reporters on Saturday that the possibility of community transmission cannot be overlooked and that