Syrian Migrant Says He's Tired Of Being The Subject Of 'Fake News,' Sues Facebook For Posts Linking Him To Terrorism

from the taking-on-the-Biggest-Blue dept

No sooner had Germany announced it was looking to start fining Facebook for the publication of "fake news" than we have a lawsuit being filed to take advantage of this brand new breed of criminal violation.

Syrian migrant Anas Modamani has announced he will sue Facebook over posts by users depicting him as a supposed participant in multiple terrorist attacks.

Modamani hired a lawyer to file an injunction against the Menlo Park-based social network alleging the company failed to remove racist posts, in violation of German hate speech laws. The legal action comes as Facebook faces mounting pressure to do something about the proliferation of fake news on the social network.

Modamani cites the country's hate speech laws, but news coverage seems to feel the disputed postings should be filed under "fake news." And it's not just the press coverage. Modamani's lawyer is using this exact phrase when issuing statements about his client's case.

Chan-jo Jun, a lawyer who in November 2016 prompted an investigation into Mark Zuckerberg and other Facebook executives following a complaint alleging that the company had failed to remove racist posts, in contravention of German laws against hate speech, has taken on the case.

"Facebook is doing a very poor job with fake news," he told the BBC.

"But it is especially doing a poor job with illegal fake news.

"Not all fake news is illegal, but where it amounts to slander, as I believe this does, then it should be taken down."

Jun and Modamani are seeking an injunction blocking posts that associate him with terrorist activity. Considering Angela Merkel herself has announced her support of Facebook-fining litigation, Modamani presents a pretty nifty nexus. One of the photos attached to bogus reports of terrorist activity is a selfie he took with the German leader in 2015.

But "fake news" this is not. This may be the product of racism and/or internet denizens who feel they're called to be vigilantes/detectives. What it definitely isn't is Facebook's fault. Modamani had reported the images to Facebook, and Facebook took them down. What he wants now is for the images -- or any variations -- to stay down forever. But that's an impossibility. Obtaining a court judgment in his favor won't make it any more possible for Facebook to prevent images portraying him as a terrorist from resurfacing.

Because images falsely tying Modamani to terrorism are still available online, he and his lawyer appear to be moving quickly to take advantage of the prevailing anti-"fake news" mood and get this case into a (hopefully) sympathetic court.

In the United States, this would have no shot. Facebook performs all sorts of moderation, but things that slip by are the responsibility of the person posting them, rather than the platform hosting them. In the rest of the world… it's not nearly that simple. And in the case of alleged defamation-meets-hate crime, it's not tough to imagine a German court deciding it's Facebook's fault that idiot users keep posting BS on its site.

Filed Under: anas modamani, fake news, germany, intermediary liability, migrants, racism, refugees
Companies: facebook


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • icon
    PlagueSD (profile), 17 Jan 2017 @ 9:57am

    There's another word for "fake news". It's called "propaganda". Call it what it REALLY is. We all know what happened the last time there was a major propaganda campaign...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Michael, 17 Jan 2017 @ 10:36am

      Re:

      We elected a new president?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Hephaestus (profile), 18 Jan 2017 @ 6:36am

      Re:

      What I find amusing is, that "Fake News" is something called free speech and has been around since gossip and later the printing press.

      What I find amusing is, that Fake News is a fear phrase, designed to make you give up more of your rights.

      What I find amusing is, this is being promoted by every news organization in the West at the same time.

      What I find seriously amusing is, the Chinese do the same thing to cause companies to self (over) censor.

      What I find amusing is, the sheer quantity of Fake News the large media companies published this election cycle.

      What I find amusing is, Fake New is Fake News.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Scote, 17 Jan 2017 @ 10:01am

    "What he wants now is for the images -- or any variations -- to stay down forever. But that's an impossibility. Obtaining a court judgment in his favor won't make it any more possible for Facebook to prevent images portraying him as a terrorist from resurfacing. "

    Not necessarily. Facebook already has face ID technology. And even absent that it could use a content ID system to at least keep the same photo of him from appearing in the feeds. Being a selfie, the copyright belongs to Anas Modamani.

    So, maybe impossible in the sense of perfect performance, but not impossible in the sense of being able to automatically prevent many or most instances off of FB.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Michael, 17 Jan 2017 @ 10:43am

      Re:

      That's a bunch of crap.

      It's impossible to be remotely accurate. To start with, the facial recognition isn't perfect. So we allow it to censor things that it shouldn't?

      Then move on to the fact that it takes a court to do a real confirmation that something is actually illegal. What about a news story about him suing Facebook for these images? You can't show the images in question?

      Images will slip through. What failure rate should be allowed?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        s, 17 Jan 2017 @ 10:50am

        "It's impossible to be remotely accurate. To start with, the facial recognition isn't perfect. So we allow it to censor things that it shouldn't?"

        We already do so on the basis of copyright with content ID systems which have an (imperfect) appeal system. So there is already a precedent for this. Just because something can't be done perfectly doesn't mean you shouldn't do anything at all.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Roger Strong (profile), 17 Jan 2017 @ 11:25am

          Re:

          A content ID system can accurately determine the wavelengths in an audio track and their corresponding notes, giving several tens or hundreds of data points to compare in a database of songs. It helps that those songs are under copyright, vastly reducing near matches.

          With faces you get just four or five data points, nothing like the accuracy of specific wavelengths, and vast numbers of near if not identical matches (based on only a few data points.) Even then the best results depend on drivers' license and passport photos where you get a posed shot with good lighting conditions.

          Stopping his face from appearing in feeds means stopping a lot of other peoples' faces from appearing in feeds for no good reason.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Scote, 17 Jan 2017 @ 11:46am

            "Stopping his face from appearing in feeds means stopping a lot of other peoples' faces from appearing in feeds for no good reason."

            Have a look at TinEye. FB might not be able to block his face using biometrics, but they could quite accurately block his copyrighted selfie from being used.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Wyrm (profile), 17 Jan 2017 @ 1:07pm

          Re:

          Wrong.
          ContentID is not a legal tool, it's the product of a private initiative. It's used to show good faith in the framework of the DMCA, but that still doesn't make it a legal option for courts.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 18 Jan 2017 @ 1:45am

          Re:

          "We already do so on the basis of copyright with content ID systems which have an (imperfect) appeal system"

          ...which routinely falsely flag legal content and are a nightmare to navigate around to get said legal content re-established. That's bad enough if you're a content creator. Now imagine it's your face that's getting blocked.

          Content ID is in fact a great example in some ways. One of the major flaws is context. The content itself is never illegal by itself, it's only a case of whether the usage is authorised or not. The problems come when either the context is not taken into account and legally uploaded content is blocked, or when the claim of ownership itself is false. Same here - you get falsely flagged or legal activity is mistaken for illegal activity? You're saying that person should be erased completely from social media (since you're talking about facial recognition and not just the content that was flagged for "terrorism")

          "Just because something can't be done perfectly doesn't mean you shouldn't do anything at all."

          ...and just because you can do something doesn't mean you should. If the potential negatives outweigh the positive effects - and this is the case here - then it shouldn't be done.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    JoeCool (profile), 17 Jan 2017 @ 10:15am

    Ironic

    In an effort to stop posts calling him a terrorist, he has become one to Facebook.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Scote, 17 Jan 2017 @ 10:30am

      Nope, not ironic

      A lawsuit is not "terrorism". So, no, this isn't ironic. This isn't like a person who doesn't believe in copyright suing for copyright.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    zerosaves (profile), 17 Jan 2017 @ 10:36am

    I'm curious as to why "fake news" (misleading, hyperbole, out-of-context, etc whatever you want to call it) on Facebook is a "problem" but never hear anything about Reddit.

    Either way, anyone who believes everything they read online is a moron.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      art guerrilla (profile), 17 Jan 2017 @ 11:14am

      Re:

      yeah, well, i would only say that principle applies to any medium... the inertnet tubes do not have a monopoly on fake news, nor just plain stupid shit... in fact, i would go so far as to say, you have a BETTER chance of sussing out The Truth from online sources than from most any other traditional media...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 17 Jan 2017 @ 11:33am

      Re:

      "Either way, anyone who believes everything they read online is a moron."

      Talk to your parents. They are probably morons to some degree. Heck, even I have already been fooled by stuff I read. Make no mistake, at some point every single one of us will be the moron. Still, the approach Facebook is taking and the herd mentality developed by people chanting that fake news is bad and SOMETHING MUST BE DONE at all costs is not going to help.

      We should try to make people take those grains of salt, be skeptical, look for sources. Think critically. Why would a goddamned Nigerian prince have my contact and want to make financial-wee-wee with a nobody? Obviously an egregious example but if you develop critical thinking you can steer away of most false stories except maybe for the more elaborate.

      So I'd argue fake news aren't an issue. People devoid of critical thinking is.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        zerosaves (profile), 17 Jan 2017 @ 12:27pm

        Re: Re:

        Exactly, my point is the whole "Facebook needs to do something" is a problem. What does Facebook have to do with any of this? "fake news" (or again, hyperbole, out-of-context or even out-right lies) is a thing everywhere. Reddit. Print. Hell in the 1800s newspapers printed it all the time (techdirt had an article about it) This whole "Facebook has a problem and needs to fix it" issue is a simple way to lay blame on a complex issue, that starts with critical thinking. Something they are not teaching or doing in schools anymore. (ie not challenging different ideas anymore, safe spaces!!)

        Also, my parents are in fact sometimes morons. They end every text with "-mom". I know mom, you sent the text from your number, you don't have to "sign it". Still keeps doing it.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          JoeCool (profile), 17 Jan 2017 @ 3:18pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          My mom (God rest her soul) once claimed that the sun jumped in the sky an entire hour compared to where it was the day before. I told, yeah, it's called Daylight Savings Time, but she refused to believe that was the cause. EVERYBODY holds the idiot ball on occasion.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Jan 2017 @ 11:33am

      I believe you.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 17 Jan 2017 @ 11:15am

    They have issued bullshit rulings before so it's a possibility. While I have no sympathy towards Facebook this is dangerous on multiple levels. These people are effectively trying to kill user generated content platforms online even though most of them are good willed. As the saying goes: The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 17 Jan 2017 @ 1:19pm

    WHY NOT

    Find the Source...
    An company or person SENDING the fake news..
    I love ESCAPE WORDS...and would LOVE to remove them from our language..
    Could of
    Might of
    Supposedly..
    IF'
    We have so many options to AVOID saying something, that it is HARD to clean it up..
    It would be great if facebook LINK to original articles..and original poster.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    The Establishment, 17 Jan 2017 @ 4:11pm

    'Fake news'... news we don't want you to read, hear, see or talk.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jan 2017 @ 6:02pm

    If you don't like the news just call it fake news and sue!!! I think this is going to be the new thing for 2017.
    We're going to see a whole lot more of this.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it
Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.