Daughter posts sexually explicit photos, dad sues Facebook

Daughter posts sexually explicit photos, dad sues Facebook

Summary: Facebook is being sued for not properly enforcing its own policy for requiring users of the social network to be at least 13 years old.

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Update: Facebook has responded to the accusations in a detailed statement.

A Northern Ireland man is suing Facebook after his 12-year-old daughter posted provocative photos on the social network. In the landmark writ, lodged in Belfast High Court on Monday, he claims that "photographic images and literary content" on the website have put his daughter in danger of attracting pedophiles. The father and daughter's names are being withheld to protect the girl's privacy.

The father's lawyer, Hilary Carmichael, says the photos, including one of the girl lifting her shirt, were "sexually explicit," but those have since been removed from Facebook. "She appears heavily made-up, she appears in a provocative pose and she appears much older than her 12 years."

Carmichael says her client argues Facebook needs to be held accountable because it does not properly enforce its own rules. "It relies on children stating their correct age and it doesn't have any checks in place," she told the BBC. "My own personal view is that Facebook isn't suitable for under-18s, but the company isn't even able to uphold its own policy of keeping under-13s out. An age check, like asking for a passport number would be a simple measure for Facebook to implement."

The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) mandates that websites that collect information about users aren't allowed to sign on anyone under the age of 13. As a result, Facebook's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities require users of the social network to be at least 13 years old (and even older, in some jurisdictions).

Millions of preteens use the service anyway: some get permission from their parents to create an account while others lie about their age to get past sign-up restrictions. Four months ago, it was estimated that 7.5 million Facebook users are below the minimum age. To make matters even more worrying, more than 5 million were 10-years-old or younger.

The girl, who is in the custody of the Northern Health and Social Care Trust, has a history of behavioral problems. A writ has also been lodged against the institution where the girl is residing, alleging that the group was negligent for failing to prevent the child accessing Facebook. In addition to posting sexually explicit material, she also gave personal details including the area where she lives and the school she attends. The girl continued posting photos on a new page even after her father shut the original down. She reportedly received inappropriate text messages from men asking her to post sexual messages and photos on Facebook.

The writ, which targets Facebook Ireland as well as Facebook's headquarters in Palo Alto, California, alleges the company is "guilty of negligence" and creates "a risk of sexual and physical harm" to the child. It says that the father will seek an injunction ordering Facebook to close down his daughter's account and stop her from opening another one. If that doesn't happen, he will seek an injunction to stop Facebook from operating in Northern Ireland.

"I'm taking this case against Facebook as a last resort," the father told the Daily Mail. "I was horrified when I saw the photographs my daughter had posted of herself on the site. She is far too young to understand what she is doing. She suffers problems and engages in self-destructive behavior. She is currently receiving counseling.

The man also revealed his daughter had a history of running away. "She has done so several times," he added. "Once she was found in a derelict house. My grave concern is that she would go off with someone she met on Facebook."

If successful, the case could see Facebook having to pay the father a large compensation. It also raises an important question: who is responsible for the well-being of children on Facebook? I would argue both the social network and parents need to do more.

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Topic: Social Enterprise

Emil Protalinski

About Emil Protalinski

Emil is a freelance journalist writing for CNET and ZDNet. Over the years,
he has covered the tech industry for multiple publications, including Ars
Technica, Neowin, and TechSpot.

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27 comments
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  • RE: Daughter posts sexually explicit photos, dad sues Facebook

    wtf. That moron should learn to be a better father and learn how to keep his kids in order instead of spending time in court.
    5ri
    • RE: Daughter posts sexually explicit photos, dad sues Facebook

      @5ri

      Agreed. Use that "rule of thumb" on his daughter for being an idiot rather than trying to get a corporation to be her pseudo-parent.
      lollylollylollylolly
    • Read the article. The daughter has a history

      of rebellion and other behavior issues. Sounds like the father is being responsible. She started the page at the GOVERNMENT facility that was housing her. He shut it down. She started another one. She runs away. He goes after her. He's going after Facebook, and the Social Trust for making his job that much harder. Sounds like he's being pretty responsible to me.
      baggins_z
      • RE: Daughter posts sexually explicit photos, dad sues Facebook

        @baggins_z How is his going after Facebook and Social Trust being responsible? As a parent I was responsible for what my child did until she reached 18... and if she had set up a FB account at 12 without my permission or after being told not to do so then it's not FB's fault but my own.
        athynz
      • RE: Daughter posts sexually explicit photos, dad sues Facebook

        @baggins_z i totally agree with u.yes the parent is to blame as any child who goes on the internet should be supervised and it is very easy to put a faulse age in he should have blocked facebook.ok facebook should be for over 18ns and i agree there and facebook should have seen this straight away and deleated her profile.but in all honesty the parent is to blame for this.
        sandyc1
      • What it sounds like...

        is more like he's done a little sexual abusing, which is why she is both set on rebelling/running away and of being sexually explicit. That isn't saying that all rebellious children are sexually abused, just that in my opinion his actions of blaming others for his daughter's behavior makes me suspicious that he is a guy with serious issues.
        trejz
  • Wow, the daughter broke the rules

    How about we arrest the little beotch and charge her with impersonating a 13+ year old!!!

    I am so sick of parents wanting to blame everybody else but themselves when their kids do something inappropriate.
    Geuseppi
    • Trogdor the Burninator

      @Geuseppi Just as a random mention, I read your comment in my head as though Strongbad were saying it. lol.
      StephenChapman
      • RE: Daughter posts sexually explicit photos, dad sues Facebook

        @StephenChapman
        LMAO... but if he were... I am guessing he would have some help from Trogdor, the BURNINATOR!
        Geuseppi
  • RE: Daughter posts sexually explicit photos, dad sues Facebook

    Once again we have parents blaming the technology because their child lied and did something they were not supposed to. A 12 year old can look close to a 13 year old and the only way FB knows aside from obvious violations is if someone reports the page. Did that happen?

    The father should be suing himself for not keeping his child in line. I mean kids will be kids and they will do stupid things but the parents have to take the responsibility for them instead of suing because their kid lied. What a crock!
    bobiroc
  • RE: Daughter posts sexually explicit photos, dad sues Facebook

    As much as I dislike Facebook, they are not the problem here.
    Digger_z
  • Sounds like a privacy issue

    If you approach the passport authorities seeking the age of someone with passport number so-and-so, will they tell you? What else will they tell you? Would this father sue the passport agency if that happened?
    Robert Hahn
  • Even if...

    the dad is trying to do his due diligence in raising his child (which sounds sketchy to me, but can't make an educated judgment), it sounds like he is trying to blame everybody else for his daughter's woes. If she is in that much dire straights, she needs to go to a true institution or be transferred to more intensive care. He has a long way to go before he can shut down all avenues that his daughter can take to act out, especially with her history. Facebook has nothing to do with this except for being a cash cow and an excuse for the dad. He has a valid case against the institution, not Facebook. Sorry fella.
    snaconst
  • See... if we'd just listened to Mark

    Mark told us kids under 13 should be on FB, more education was the answer.

    If only we'd listened, this would have been avoided

    /sarcasm
    UrNotPayingAttention
    • RE: Daughter posts sexually explicit photos, dad sues Facebook

      @chmod 777 Actually you're right. The reason he wanted to do it was so they could regulate and protect preteens. As it is now, all the preteens are lying to get on, which makes it harder to protect them.
      Aerowind
  • RE: Daughter posts sexually explicit photos, dad sues Facebook

    "The girl, who is in the custody of the Northern Health and Social Care Trust, has a history of behavioral problems."

    TRANSLATION:

    She has been a skank for a while now, so these pics are nothing new, poor Daddy just saw it is as a possible cash opportunity. She'll make Daddy even more proud in 5-6 years when he runs into her by accident at his favorite skin bar.

    FB, despite being a plague among this world, is not at fault here as much as it pains me to say. They need some way to enforce their rules and guidelines, but at this point it still isn't their fault.
    Bates_
  • RE: Daughter posts sexually explicit photos, dad sues Facebook

    I agree with the story and disagree with those that think parents should do a better job parenting. I too have a daughter that along with a friend joined facebook when they were barely 11. both used fake birthdates to get on. My daughter used a birthdate that made her 21, she also included her home address, phone number, and pictures of her and our house. Now, I know this because as a parent I WAS keeping an eye on her internet usage. But, because she had created it at a friends house (who was a year older), I did not catch it until several months later when she logged on from home. At that point, once I discovered this, I took immediate actions to address the situation. None the less, she could have been harmed in the interim.

    As a single father and i will admit this, someone that has used an online dating site, I can tell you that when you post a picture or even make a change, it is often reviewed prior to it being posted to your site. I believe Facebook has the ability to do the same and also the responsibility. Now, my daughter might have passed for a 13 year old (i actually think that is even doubtful) when she was 11, but she certainly would not have passed for a 21 year old. Additionally, my daughter also listed where she went to school ([town name] elementary school). If Facebook reviewed new members pages, I am sure that they or any reasonable person would have determined that my daughter was not in fact 21 and would have had serious doubts that she was even 13.

    Now, I do not have the answer as far as how to prevent this 100% of the time. But I know that when my daughter created this account at 11 yrs old, and I found out about it and reviewed her page and her friends, nearly every one of her classmates were on facebook and they ALL were under 13. Working in technology I am observant of her online activities and she has been raised right and is a well behaved and mannered child. But children, when all their friends are already on Facebook, and presented the chance at a friends house, will often take advantage. Facebook, by providing the forum that they do, have a responsiblity to police that forum as well, which includes doing what they can to prevent under age children from joining. And I understand no system will ever be perfect. But Facebook doesn't even make a serious attempt to do it.

    I should say that I am not opposed to Facebook, and i maintain an active account and now that my daughter is older, she maintains one too (which I still monitor). So, I'm not anti facebook, but they do not attempt to protect young children and I believe they should.
    mgrubb@...
    • RE: Daughter posts sexually explicit photos, dad sues Facebook

      @mgrubb@... Hence why Zuckerberg wants to allow under 13 children under limited scope. As it is now, children just lie to get through the filter. If they didn't have to, you could more easily regulate it.

      Also, there's a difference between your dating site and Facebook...mainly, Facebook is ridiculously huge. Hiring enough people to screen every profile would bankrupt them.
      Aerowind
    • RE: Daughter posts sexually explicit photos, dad sues Facebook

      @mgrubb@... I understand your point even if I disagree with it. The fact is this girl created a FB page and her father deleted it and so she created another one after being told not to. How is this FB's fault? I feel that this is a parenting issue especially as sites like FB do not have any sort of controls in place as the dating sites you refer to.
      athynz
    • RE: Daughter posts sexually explicit photos, dad sues Facebook

      @mgrubb@... It is your/the parents responsibility to not just to monitor their children's behavior, but to teach them proper values! IF you had done that, you wouldn't be posting here today.

      Don't blame anyone but yourself. My parents taught me to be a good citizen, why can't you?
      timspublic1@...