French Court Rules Facebook Can Be Sued for Censorship in Nude Painting Case

French Court Rules Facebook Can Be Sued for Censorship in Nude Painting Case
Image credit: Maria Elena | Flickr

Facebook has more than 1 billion users all over the world, but per the company’s terms  and conditions, it can only be sued in the state of California.

A recent legal ruling in a Parisian censorship case regarding a nude painting, however, just set a precedent that could allow the social-media giant to be tried outside of the U.S.

Back in 2011, Frederic Durand-Baissas, a 57-year-old teacher from Paris, discovered that his Facebook account had been deleted immediately after he posted a well-known nude painting by 19th century painter Gustave Courbet, called L'Origine du Monde (The Origin of the World).

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Durand-Baissas sued the company, demanding it restore his account and pay him 20,000 euros (around $25,000) in damages. Facebook's legal team argued that the case could only go before a court in Santa Clara, Calif., where the company is headquartered, because of a provision in the site's terms and conditions. Last year, a high court in Paris ruled that the case should be heard in France, and last week, a Paris appeals court upheld that decision.

Stephane Cottineau, Durand-Baissas' attorney, told the Associated Press the upheld ruling shows "web giants that they will have now to answer for their possible faults in French courts." The decision could open the door for other lawsuits to proceed against the company outside the U.S.

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The case also highlights the tricky tightrope Facebook must walk when it comes to issues of pornography and censorship. In their community standards, Facebook says that it “restricts 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."

However, while the social giant says it makes a practice of removing nude photos of people, it also says it is permissible to post "photographs of paintings, sculptures, and other art that depicts nude figures."

Edition: November 2016

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