herald

Friday 25 July 2014

Facebook sued by father over sexual photos of girl (12)

AN Irish father is taking a landmark case against Facebook after sexually suggestive photos of his 12-year-old daughter appeared on the website.

The distraught father has claimed his daughter has been put at risk from paedophiles as a result of the publication of the images.

Facebook, the world's largest social networking site, has 730 million users around the world.

If the case is successful, the global brand worth an estimated €20bn would be facing a huge payout.

Hilary Carmichael, the solicitor acting for the father, told the Herald that Facebook does not have any checks in place to ensure children are over the permitted age, 13, when they open an account.



Harm

"I was able to access this girl's Facebook page myself before we issued the writ. She has more than 485 friends ... some from the western provinces of Nigeria," she revealed.

The writ lodged in Belfast High Court alleges the company is "guilty of negligence" and has created "a risk of sexual and physical harm" to the child.

It claims the girl has received sexually explicit text messages from adult men and that men asked her to post images of herself online.

The girl, who is from Co Antrim, cannot be identified for legal reasons.

It is believed she posted the provocative material on the site herself.

She even revealed personal details like where she lived, the name of her school and areas where she hangs out.

The girl suffers from behaviour problems and is in a voluntary care institution.

Mother-of-three Ms Car-michael told the Herald she has come across similar Facebook pages of children who live in the Republic of Ireland and she warned parents to be vigilant.

"We've had parents who've been in contact with us whose children live in the Republic and operate Facebook pages in the Republic.

"If they have any concerns, they should shut it down straight away," the Derry solicitor said.

She added that it is easy to pin down the location of a child by following posts on the site.

"A lot of children are innocent and they don't know the dangers.

"That's why they shouldn't be allowed Facebook pages -- they're too young," said Ms Carmichael who has launched the childrenonfacebook.com site to warn parents about the risks.

The High Court writ was served on the US company today.



ADULTS

Among the 12-year-old girl's Facebook 'friends' are adults in Ireland, Britain and elsewhere.

The girl's father has said he is "worried sick" thinking about the danger she could be in, adding his concern is she would go off with someone she met on the social networking site.

"There was another photo of my daughter lifting up her top but that has been removed," the man said.

Facebook, whose international headquarters are located in Dublin said it is committed to removing inappropriate and indecent photos once a complaint has been made.

It is the latest court action to hit the company.

A recent case involved businessman and racehorse owner JP McManus who had sought an injunction to force Facebook to shut down accounts claiming to be him.

The action was struck out in May after lawyers for the company took down the profiles.

See Page 14

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