Court: Facebook's nudity policy can face trial in France
(Associated Press) - February 12, 2016 - 1:00pm

PARIS — If you post a 19th-century nude painting on Facebook, is it art or impermissible nudity? That question is now cleared for trial in France, after an appeals court there ruled that an aggrieved user can sue the social network over the issue.

Five years ago, Facebook suspended the account of Frederic Durand-Baissas, a 57-year-old Parisian teacher and art lover, without prior notice. That was the day he posted a photo of Gustave Courbet's 1866 painting "The Origin of the World," which depicts female genitalia.

Durand-Baissas wants his account reactivated and is asking for 20,000 euros ($22,550) in damages. He said he's "glad" he has been given the chance to get some sort of explanation from the powerful social network.

"This is a case of free speech and censorship on a social network," Durand-Baissas told The Associated Press in a phone interview. "If (Facebook) can't see the difference between an artistic masterpiece and a pornographic image, we in France (can)."

The case is an illustration of the tricky line social media sites walk globally when trying to police explicit content.

Facebook did not return a request for comment. It has never provided any explanation for the suspended account.

The social network's current "Community Standards" page, which Facebook revised in March 2015 to provide "more detail and clarity," states: "We restrict the display of nudity because some audiences within our global community may be sensitive to this type of content — particularly because of their cultural background or age."

But Facebook's current policy — revised — well after Durand-Baissas' suspension — also now appears to allow postings such as a photo of the Courbet painting. Facebook's standards page now explicitly states: "We also allow photographs of paintings, sculptures, and other art that depicts nude figures."

Facebook lawyers argued that under its terms of service, such lawsuits could only be heard by a specific court in California where it has its headquarters, and that French consumer-rights law doesn't apply to its users in France because its worldwide service is free.

The Paris appeals court dismissed those arguments. The ruling could set a legal precedent in France, where Facebook has more than 30 million regular users. It can be appealed to France's highest court.

The appeals court said the small clause included in Facebook's terms and conditions requiring any worldwide lawsuits to be heard by the Santa Clara court is "unfair" and excessive. In addition, the judges said the terms and conditions contract signed before creating a Facebook account does fall under consumer rights law in France.

"This is a great satisfaction and a great victory after five years of legal action," lawyer Stephane Cottineau, who represents the teacher, told The Associated Press. He said it sends a message to all "web giants that they will have now to answer for their possible faults in French courts."

"On one hand, Facebook shows a total permissiveness regarding violence and ideas conveyed on the social network. And on the other hand, (it) shows an extreme prudishness regarding the body and nudity," he said.

The French government has lobbied Silicon Valley tech giants to take down violent extremist material, notably after deadly attacks in Paris last year.

Facebook has had a tough week in France.

France's independent privacy watchdog said Facebook is breaching user privacy by tracking and using their personal data, and set a three-month limit ahead of eventual fines. And the government's anti-fraud agency issued a formal notice giving the company two months to comply with French data protection laws or risk sanctions. It notably accused Facebook of removing content or information posted by users without consultation.

Philstar
  • Latest
Latest
Are you sure you want to log out?
X
Login

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

SIGN IN
or sign in with