Syrian refugee loses fake news battle with Facebook
Refugee takes Facebook to court over fake news
A Syrian refugee has suffered a defeat in his legal battle to force Facebook to prevent his name and image being linked to terrorism in fake news posts.
Anas Modamani had asked a German court for a preliminary injunction that would prevent a selfie he took with German Chancellor Angela Merkel from being posted on the social media platform. He also wanted the court to order Facebook (FB, Tech30) to delete all existing fake news posts using the image.
The court in Wuerzburg ruled against him Tuesday.
Modamani snapped the selfie with Merkel when she visited the shelter where he was living in 2015.
The image went viral because it captured the reserved German leader in a rare unscripted moment. But it was soon hijacked by fake news producers who repeatedly used Modamani’s name and likeness in social media posts about terrorism.
Chon-jo Jun, a lawyer who represents Modamani, told CNNMoney earlier this year that while Facebook did take down some of the fake news stories that used Modamani’s photo, others were allowed to proliferate on the network.
The court ruling issued Tuesday, however, found that Facebook was "neither perpetrator nor participant in the undisputed slander."
A news photographer captured Modamani snapping the selfie with Merkel.
Before the court case began, Modamani told CNNMoney that the fake news problem is not just limited to his case. "It is the problem of the world," he said.
Facebook has taken steps to curb the spread of fake news and hoaxes after coming under pressure over the possible role of disinformation in the U.S. presidential election.
With elections due later this year in Germany, the social network has started to attach warning labels to fabricated stories seen by German users of the site. The country’s own intelligence agency has raised alarms about a disinformation campaign.
Modamani now speaks proficient German and is living with a foster family on the outskirts of Berlin. The court said that Modamani would have the right to appeal its ruling.