Facebook Defends Hate-Post Rule in Merkel-Refugee Photo Suit

Facebook told a German court that it can’t monitor all of its customers’ posts for racist language in a dispute over whether the company has to block a photo showing chancellor Angela Merkel and a refugee that has been misused in several hate-speech postings.

Facebook Defends Hate-Post Rule in Merkel-Refugee Photo Suit

“There are billions of postings each day,” said Martin Munz, a Facebook lawyer. “You want us to employ a sort of wonder machine to detect each misuse. Such a machine doesn’t exist.”

Facebook was sued by Syrian refugee Anas Modamani, 19, who became famous after he took a picture of himself with Merkel. The photo later became an emblem of her refugee policies. Modamani appeared in a Wuerzburg court on Monday next to his attorney to argue Facebook must make sure the picture won’t be misused again by its users.

Modamani’s lawyer Chan-jo Jun told the court the picture was posted on timelines of numerous users who added libelous statements about his client, including falsely alleging he took part in terror attacks. The suit centers on a photomontage that claimed Modamani was responsible for the attempted murder of a homeless person. A ruling was scheduled for March 7.

Following the presidential election in November, Facebook came under pressure to do more to address the spread of articles with false information. CEO Mark Zuckerberg at first downplayed the company’s responsibility, before reversing himself and creating new policies to tackle the problem.

Lawyers for Facebook argued that the social network offers a tool that allows users to notify the company to remove illicit content.

While Facebook initially removed a post that was flagged as abusive, it didn’t do so with all pictures that were notified, Jun told the court. The company didn’t take any action to prevent the photo from being posted again or to detect other users who had shared or liked it, he said. The photo wasn’t actually deleted but could be retrieved in other parts of the world, he said. Jun also rejected the argument that there are just too many posts to keep track of.

“Volkswagen also can’t just say: ‘Well, sorry we build too many cars we can’t really make sure they’re all safe,”‘ Jun said. “If it’s about breasts or child pornography, Facebook is very well able to detect all pictures.”

The suit comes while European Union regulators and the German government are upping pressure on Facebook and other social networks to curb the spread of malicious posts. Merkel’s government is seeking legislation that would require Facebook and its peers to respond to complaints and delete such content within 24 hours or face fines.

Facebook rejected a suggestion by the court to settle by paying some damages but said it will consider the judges’ second settlement proposal to block the picture Europe-wide.

“This case raises a lot of complicated legal issues, so we need some time to deliberate,” Presiding Judge Volkmar Seipel said. “We also have the disadvantage that none of us three judges hearing this suit is on Facebook.”

Facebook Messenger for Android Gets Multiple Account Support

Facebook Messenger for Android Gets Multiple Account Support

Facebook has redesigned its popular Messenger app so several people can use it on the same smartphone or tablet without relinquishing their privacy.

The update announced Friday initially will only be available on devices running on Android, the world’s most popular mobile operating system. Facebook didn’t set a timetable for making similar changes to its Messenger app for Apple Inc.’s iPhone and iPad.

The new feature will accommodate multiple accounts without allowing people sharing the more versatile app to get into each other’s queue of messages.

Facebook added the ability to switch accounts within the Messenger app after getting requests from people who share their smartphones and tablets with family and friends.

More than 800 million people currently use Messenger.

A recent report indicated that Facebook will soon be including paid advertisements in its Messenger app. Based off a a leaked document obtained by TechCrunch that the social media giant is purportedly being distributed, it appears Facebook is informing businesses they will soon be able to message customers directly via the Facebook messenger app starting Q2 of this year. However, the businesses will only able to message those customers who have voluntarily initiated the chat.

The document also notes that Facebook has quietly launched a URL short link fb.com/msg/ that opens a chat thread with the business. Facebook too has confirmed the existence of the URL, says the report.

“We don’t comment on rumour or speculation. That said, our aim with Messenger is to create a high quality, engaging experience for 800 million people around the world, and that includes ensuring people do not experience unwanted messages of any type.”said Facebook to TechCrunch regarding Messenger ads.

Facebook Rolls Out Suicide Prevention Tool to the UK

Facebook Rolls Out Suicide Prevention Tool to the UK

After a successful trial in the US and Australia, social media giant Facebook has rolled out its suicide prevention tool in Britain that allows users to notify it if a friend is in distress.

Created in consultation with British charity Samaritans, the tool will allow users to report content to Facebook or reach out to their friends.

“We worked with organisations including Samaritans to develop these tools, and one of the first things they told us was how much connecting with people who care can help those who are struggling to cope – whether offline or online,” said Julie De Bailliencourt, head of safety at Facebook.

Facebook and Samaritans have collaborated on a suicide prevention feature since 2011.

If a person on Facebook thinks a friend is in need of support, then they can use a form in Facebook’s Help Centre to flag their concern to Facebook or report their concern via the reporting links found across Facebook’s site.

Reports to Facebook are triaged and those reported that where someone may be at risk are prioritised.

“If someone is reported to us, as at risk of suicide, Facebook’s safety team will look at their account. If they consider that a person is at risk of immediate harm then we may, in very rare cases, alert local police,” Samaritans wrote on its website.

“If we don’t consider that someone is at immediate risk but is showing signs of distress then we will interrupt their Facebook experience. At this time we will send them a message to say that a friend has flagged that they may be in crisis and offer them information about how to get help via Samaritans,” it further added.

If you report worrying content, users will be sent a notification asking them whether they need support from a friend or helpline, and will be given tips and advice on how to deal with suicidal thoughts or thoughts of self harm.

“Those who report explicit threats of suicide will be given the number for emergency services, while less serious content will be flagged to Facebook,” the charity noted.

In 2014, the charity launched an initiative with Twitter which flagged “worrying tweets” to the service but was withdrawn later.

Facebook Live Video Rolling Out Globally; Messenger Tipped to Get Ads

Facebook Live Video Rolling Out Globally; Messenger Tipped to Get Ads

Facebook last month started rolling out its Live Video streaming feature to all iPhone users in the US region. The content sharing feature, which was previously limited to select users and celebrities, has now started rolling out to other countries as well. A separate report adds that Facebook might soon start injecting ads in to its standalone messaging app – Messenger.

As per user reports (via Engadget), users in the UK, Germany, Brazil, and South Africa have started seeing the new Live Video sharing feature in their Facebook apps following an in-app update. Users can check if they have the live streaming tool by tapping on the Update Status bar at the top of the News Feed and looking for the Live Video icon.

For now, only iOS users are able to view the icons. Android users are expected to receive the feature soon. The report adds that Facebook will take a couple of weeks to make the feature available to all iOS users.

Facebook Live Videos work in a similar fashion as Twitter’s Periscope. Users can start streaming a live video and the viewers can comment and like the stream. Facebook will also show the number of views on the live streaming video.

In a separate report, Facebook will soon be including paid advertisements in its Facebook Messenger app as per a leaked document obtained by TechCrunch. The social media giant has distributed a document to businesses suggesting that they will soon be able to message customers directly via the Facebook messenger app starting Q2 of this year. However, the businesses will only able to message those customers who have voluntarily initiated the chat.

The document also notes that Facebook has quietly launched a URL short link fb.com/msg/ that opens a chat thread with the business. Facebook too has confirmed the existence of the URL, says the report.

“We don’t comment on rumour or speculation. That said, our aim with Messenger is to create a high quality, engaging experience for 800 million people around the world, and that includes ensuring people do not experience unwanted messages of any type.”said Facebook to TechCrunch regarding Messenger ads.

Facebook Nude-Painting Case Can Face Trial in France

Facebook Nude-Painting Case Can Face Trial in France

If you post a 19th-century nude painting on Facebook, is it art or impermissible nudity? That question is now cleared for trial in France, after an appeals court there ruled that an aggrieved user can sue the social network over the issue.

Five years ago, Facebook suspended the account of Frederic Durand-Baissas, a 57-year-old Parisian teacher and art lover, without prior notice. That was the day he posted a photo of Gustave Courbet’s 1866 painting “The Origin of the World,” which depicts female genitalia.

Durand-Baissas wants his account reactivated and is asking for EUR 20,000 ($22,550) in damages. He said he’s “glad” he has been given the chance to get some sort of explanation from the powerful social network.

“This is a case of free speech and censorship on a social network,” Durand-Baissas told The Associated Press in a phone interview. “If (Facebook) can’t see the difference between an artistic masterpiece and a pornographic image, we in France (can).”

The case is an illustration of the tricky line social media sites walk globally when trying to police explicit content.

“It’s another hole in the fabric, at least in Europe, when it comes to users’ rights running counter to the way these companies operate in the U.S.,” said Steve Jones, a communications professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

“Social networks are going to have to be much more careful about how they interact with users and how they summarily make decisions about those users’ accounts,” he said.

Facebook has never provided any specific explanation for the suspended account.

“This case dates back more than five years and Facebook has evolved considerably since then,” spokeswoman Christine Chen said in an emailed response to a request for comment. “While we are disappointed by today’s ruling on jurisdiction, we remain confident that the court will find the underlying case itself to be without merit.”

The social network’s current “Community Standards” page, which Facebook revised in March 2015 to provide “more detail and clarity,” states: “We restrict 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.”

But Facebook’s current policy – revised well after Durand-Baissas’ suspension – also now appears to allow postings such as a photo of the Courbet painting. Facebook’s standards page now explicitly states: “We also allow photographs of paintings, sculptures, and other art that depicts nude figures.”

Facebook’s nudity policy has not yet been aired in French court. So far, Facebook lawyers have argued that under its terms of service, lawsuits like the one filed by Durand-Baissas could only be heard by a specific court in California, where Facebook is headquartered. The social network also argued that French consumer-rights law doesn’t apply to its users in that country because its worldwide service is free.

The Paris appeals court dismissed those arguments. The ruling could set a legal precedent in France, where Facebook has more than 30 million regular users. It can be appealed to France’s highest court.

The appeals court said the small clause included in Facebook’s terms and conditions requiring any worldwide lawsuits to be heard by the Santa Clara court is “unfair” and excessive. In addition, the judges said the terms and conditions contract signed before creating a Facebook account does fall under consumer rights law in France.

“This is a great satisfaction and a great victory after five years of legal action,” lawyer Stephane Cottineau, who represents the teacher, told The Associated Press. He said it sends a message to all “web giants that they will have now to answer for their possible faults in French courts.”

“On one hand, Facebook shows a total permissiveness regarding violence and ideas conveyed on the social network. And on the other hand, (it) shows an extreme prudishness regarding the body and nudity,” he said.

The French government has lobbied Silicon Valley tech giants to take down violent extremist material, notably after deadly attacks in Paris last year.

Facebook has had a tough week in France.

France’s independent privacy watchdog said Facebook is breaching user privacy by tracking and using their personal data, and set a three-month limit ahead of eventual fines. And the government’s anti-fraud agency issued a formal notice giving the company two months to comply with French data protection laws or risk sanctions. It notably accused Facebook of removing content or information posted by users without consultation.