Facebook Going To Court Over Fake News, Syrian Refugee

REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

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Jacob Bojesson Foreign Correspondent
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A Syrian refugee in Germany is taking Facebook to court over false reports claiming he’s a terrorist.

Anas Modamani’s selfie with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in August 2015 at a refugee shelter became a symbolic moment in the early stages of Europe’s refugee crisis. Modamani is seeking an injunction against Facebook Europe for allowing the image to spread in posts that suggest he is a terrorist.

Modamani claims he’s been publicly accused of being an accomplice in both the Brussels bombing in March 2016 as well as the truck attack in Berlin last December.

“For the first five months, I thought it was a good luck charm,” Modamani told CNN. “But now I think it’s bad luck.”

Facebook has never been summoned to court in Germany before and the trial could set a precedent for the spread of false information on social media in the country. Chan-jo Jun, the lawyer who filed the injunction on Modamani’s behalf, says Facebook’s community standards directly contradict German law.

“Facebook is unusually difficult about implementing German law,” Jun said in a video on his law office’s Facebook page. “Slander and abusive insults are against German law, but not against its community standards.

German politicians have called for tougher penalties for allowing fake news to spread on social media. The Social Democrats proposed 500,000 euro fines ($537,000) in December for each fake news story a website fails to remove within 24 hours of posting it.

Facebook said it remains committed to meeting its obligations under German law, and argues the court case is an unnecessary way to accomplish it.

“We are committed to meeting our obligations under German law in relation to content which is shared by people on our platform,” Facebook said in a statement, according to CNN. “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.”

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