Vicky Spratt | Deputy Editor | Thursday, 29 September 2016

A 14-Year-Old Girl In Northern Ireland Is Suing Facebook Over Revenge Porn

A 14-Year-Old Girl In Northern Ireland Is Suing Facebook Over Revenge Porn

The Debrief: And here's why her legal case is important...

Last year Facebook followed in Twitter’s footsteps and banned revenge porn. It became a breach of the site’s regulations to post images of someone else without their consent.

The social network, which over recent years has become increasingly central to many of our lives, updated its community standards guidelines to contain further information on what was and wasn’t going to be deemed acceptable, just in case there was any confusion as to why you shouldn’t post naked pictures of another person, without their consent, with the intent to cause them harm.

However, it seems that perhaps they didn’t go far enough. Facebook established guidelines but they relied on users to report revenge porn and images promoting sexual exploitation, as opposed to scanning profiles themselves.

Over a year after Facebook’s guidelines were updated a 14-year-old girl from Northern Ireland is suing the site after a naked photograph was posted of her without her consent.

The girl, who cannot be identified, is taking legal action against both Facebook and the man who posted the photograph. The BBC reports that this is believed to be ‘the first case of its kind in the world.’

Her lawyers say that the girl was blackmailed over the photograph and that it has been published repeatedly on the Internet as a form of ‘revenge’.

Earlier this month in a preliminary hearing at Belfast’s High Court the girl’s barrister said:

‘A naked 14-year-old picture was being put on a shame page, if they had blocked it all this subsequent publication of her naked imaged would not have taken place.’

Facebook’s lawyer in return argued that the girl’s case along with her claim for damages should be dismissed on the grounds that the site took down the image when it was reported to them.

The girl’s team said that this should have been a ‘red line’ issue for the company. Her lawyers argued that Facebook has the power to block any re-publication using tracking processes to identify offensive images.

And therein lies the rub, this case is based on the principal that Facebook should be more proactive when it comes to policing their online network, that they should remove images which could be classed as revenge porn or exploitative by default.

The 14-year-old is seeking damages for misuse of her private information, negligence and also breaches of the Data Protection Act.

Since it launched Facebook has become an ever increasingly vital part of all of our lives. Earlier this year the site passed the 1.5 billion user mark. That means that if Facebook was a country it would be the most populated country in the world, bigger than China, bigger than the United States and bigger than Russia.

At some point online law will have to catch up with IRL legislation and ensure that citizens of the Internet have the same rights and protections as they do offline.

Whatever the outcome of this case, it raises interesting questions about where the responsibility lies when it comes to explicit content on social networks: with the network or with the person being subjected to revenge porn, shaming or exploitation. Indeed, it also feeds into wider arguments about what sort of content Facebook does and does not allow on its site as it expands to become more than a social network, whether it likes it or not.

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Tags: Online chat, revenge porn