Facebook cleared in fake news defamation case

facebook fake news syria angela merkel

Last month, Syrian refugee Anas Modamani filed a lawsuit against Facebook after a barrage of fake news linked an image of him and German chancellor Angela Merkel to terrorism.

The photo, taken in August 2015, was used by many right-wing fake news sites last year. Modamani’s selfie was linked to attacks like the ones in Berlin and Brussels last year. Modamani requested that Facebook take the articles down, but it refused — forcing the 19-year-old to take the issue to court.

The Syrian’s lawyer, Chan-jo Jun, argued that he was a victim of libel and that Facebook needed to do more to protect him, considering the majority of the articles were being shared on their platform.

But Facebook countered that they could not technically monitor all posts that use the image, due to the fact that they’d have to sift through billions of post each day to find any incriminating articles.

Modamani’s lawyer called that answer a cop-out.

“Volkswagen also can’t just say: ‘Well, sorry we build too many cars we can’t really make sure they’re all safe,’” Jun told Bloomberg.

“If it’s about breasts or child pornography, Facebook is very well able to detect all pictures.”

It wasn’t this argument that saved the company, however.

Facebook has been cleared of defamation in a case involving fake news, an image of a 19-year-old Syrian national, and German chancellor Angela Merkel

A German court ruled this week that Facebook was neither a perpetrator nor participant in the defamation, as it cannot be held responsible for what its users do.

“We appreciate that this is a very difficult situation for Mr. Modamani,” Facebook said in a statement to the New York Times.

“Regarding the ruling, we are pleased that the court shares our view that the legal action initiated was not merited or the most effective way to resolve the situation.”

Jun was dismayed at the outcome, but was at least pleased with the publicity the case received. According to him, Modamani has seen a decrease in threats since the start of the trial.

He also sees this as a lesson in German legislation.

“We learned a lot from this case,” Jun said, according to the New York Times.

“People have learned that Mr. Modamani is not a terrorist. We lawyers have learned that we cannot help victims of libel and slander with the laws we have. But we have learned which laws have to be changed.”



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