Taken to court overseas
Facebook claims to be doing what it can stop the spread of fake news stories and hate speech, but in a German legal battle, the social media site majorly dropped the ball. Last week, Syrian refugee Anas Modamani, age 19, appeared in court in Würzburg to hold Facebook accountable for the misuse of a photo he posted.
In 2015, Modamani posted a selfie with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The photo went viral as a comment on Merkel’s refugee policies, but some captions called Modamani a suspected terrorist. The photo was also posted with a fake news story implicating Modamani in terrorist attacks in Brussels and Berlin.
The court case addresses a photo montage in which Modamani is falsely accused of attempting to murder a homeless person.
Modamani’s lawyer, Chan-jo Jun, says that Facebook only removed one of the many reported photos of Modamani, and that they didn’t try to detect other posts of the photo to remove abusive content.
Jun argued that the site has the technological know-how to detect the photo and stop these libelous news stories from spreading.
Defense pulls the “impossible” card
Facebook’s lawyer Marin Munz balked at the suggestion, saying “There are billions of postings each day. You want us to employ a sort of wonder machine to detect each misuse. Such a machine doesn’t exist.”
The site that uses facial recognition to identify user photos (and can recognize you by your posture or the back of your head, no face needed), has international teams watchdogging for terrorist activity and pornography, and has amassed a treasure trove of user data claims that they can’t hunt down one photo to prevent it from ruining an innocent user’s life.
Jun was skeptical of Munz’s response. “Volkswagen also can’t just say: ‘Well, sorry we build too many cars, we can’t really make sure they’re all safe,” argues Jun, “If it’s about breasts or child pornography, Facebook is very well able to detect all pictures.”
Fake news in action
Facebook caught heat after last year’s fraught election for allowing fake news articles to spread. At first, Zuckerberg tried to shirk responsibility, but eventually the site created new policies to try to limit fake news.
The ruling in this case is scheduled for March 7.