Syrian refugee Anas Modamani filed a lawsuit against Facebook after his selfie with German Chancellor Angela Merkel was used in allegedly “defamatory” posts on the platform.
“Mr. Modamani has filed for an injunction in a court in Würzburg, in the southern German state of Bavaria, that would require Facebook to remove any content linking him to terrorism,” reported the New York Times on Monday. “His lawyer, Chan-jo Jun, says that although his client deleted the photograph and requested that it be taken down in some postings, it still appears on other people’s social media pages and in fake news reports accusing him of having links to terrorism.”
“The image has been used with posts about the attacks in Brussels last year and on a Christmas market in Berlin. Recently, someone posted Mr. Modamani’s photograph on Facebook and said that he had been involved in a December attack in which a homeless man in Berlin was set on fire,” they continued. “Mr. Modamani’s lawyer says his client will continue to be a victim of libel until Facebook uses its algorithms to prevent the image from being reproduced.”
Facebook have reportedly taken down the defamatory posts reported to them by Modamani’s lawyer, however they also claimed that because the incidents are based on defamation, and not breaches of the platform’s community standards, the users who posted the defamatory memes would be responsible instead of the company.
“We are committed to meeting our obligations under German law in relation to content which is shared by people on our platform,” proclaimed the company in a statement. “We have already quickly disabled access to content that has been accurately reported to us by Modamani’s legal representatives, so we do not believe that legal action here is necessary or that it is the most effective way to resolve the situation.”
Despite Facebook’s effort to remove the offending posts, Modamani’s lawyer claimed Facebook has “created an environment that allows illegal content to thrive.”
“Facebook only deletes those URLs that are pointed out to them in written form. We are fighting for all reposts to be deleted,” said Modamani’s attorney, Chan-jo Jun. “Facebook has created an environment that allows illegal content to thrive… In this case, I will either demonstrate the legal gaps that are still being closed to effectively enforce German law, or Facebook will learn that it does not pay to constantly violate the law.”
“I took the selfie because my hobby is taking photos,” said Modamani to The Independent in January. “It was for me, not for other people.”
“I came to Germany because I wanted to live in peace, away from danger,” he continued. “I don’t want anyone to continue using my photo on Facebook. I want to live in peace without any problems.”