Facebook has lost a legal bid to prevent a 14-year-old girl from suing the company over a naked picture of her that was posted on a “shame page” on the site as an act of revenge.
A high court judge in Belfast on Monday rejected Facebook’s attempt to have the claim by the girl struck out. She is also taking legal action against the man who allegedly posted the picture in what lawyers claim is the first case of its kind in the UK.
A lawyer for the teenager, who cannot be named because of her age, compared the publishing of the photo to a method of child abuse.
The girl is seeking damages for misuse of private information, negligence and breach of the Data Protection Act.
Her photograph was said to have been posted on a so-called shame page on Facebook several times between November 2014 and January 2016.
The girl’s legal team argued that Facebook had the power to block any re-publication by using a tracking process to identify the image.
The court heard it should have been a “red line” issue for the company.
A lawyer for Facebook argued the claim for damages should be dismissed, saying the company always took down the picture when it was notified.
Facebook’s lawyers relied on a European directive that they claimed provides protection from having to monitor a vast amount of online material for what is posted on one page.
The case against Facebook and the man who it is claimed originally posted the picture will now move to full trial in Belfast at a later date.
It is not the first time Facebook has been sued for its role in hosting sexual images posted for the purpose of revenge.
In 2014, a Texas woman reportedly sued the company for $123m for failing to stop posts superimposing her face on nude images, but the case was dismissed.
Facebook is increasingly becoming embroiled in arguments about what content it does and does not allow on its platform.
There was outcry last week after Norway’s best-selling newspaper ran a front page letter criticising the social network’s decision to remove a famous image of a naked young girl running from a napalm attack during the Vietnam war, posted by writer Tom Egeland.
Facebook also removed a post by Norway’s prime minister, in which she criticised the social network and reposted the image, before relenting and saying it would allow the image.
While the company has introduced processes – both automated and human – to control what appears on its website, it has repeatedly sought to avoid taking full responsibility, arguing that it is a technology platform, rather than a publisher.
Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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