General Question

stardust's avatar

Do you agree with this father's decision to sue Facebook? (Details inside)

Asked by stardust (10544points) September 8th, 2011

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.


“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 site to warn parents about the risks.

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


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.

Do you think this man has a case? Should the responsibility be left at his door and his parenting skills questioned? Surely he should be monitoring his daughter’s online activity rather than expecting Facebook to do that for him?


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41 Answers

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I believe he does not. I believe it is the parent’s responsibility to educate their children about proper safety and computer usage. The ‘threat of pedophiles’, so to speak, is rather everywhere and most molesters and abusers aren’t strangers that find pics on FB but are in the kids’ lives already.

missingE's avatar

It’s his responsibility as a parent to monitor his daughter’s activities. Why the play the blame game with something like that?

But, I do think he might have a case. I don’t know anything about Irish law, but if this was here in the US I’m sure it wouldn’t be thrown out (If someone can sue McDonald’s for making people fat, then any case can go through).

marinelife's avatar

I don’t see how the company can police age and all of the content on its site.

It is the parents’ responsibility.

TexasDude's avatar

So where did facebook force or even encourage his daughter to put dirty pictures up?


Just like I thought. Therefore, it’s his fault for being a derpy parent, and her fault for being a derpy daughter (though less so, since she’s young and probably doesn’t know any better).

Therefore, he has no case.

ragingloli's avatar

How do you ensure and verify the age of prospective subscribers? The only thing that could work is supplying facebook with officially verified private information. A notarised birth certificate, passport or other ID. Facebook can not be trusted with that information, and neither can it be expected to verify the validity of supplied personal information of every subscriber.
No, the only one guilty of negligence is the father, for failing to check on what his kid, which he knows has behavioural issues, is doing on the internet.

zenvelo's avatar

A lawsuit like that is a declaration of “I have no control over my own children, I am an inept parent.”

rebbel's avatar

I agree with the above people who say the father is responsible, not Facebook (if one signs up and agrees on the terms (which apparently also contains the declaration that one is at least thirteen years old) how is Facebook to know that the person singing is lying?).
What I wonder about is this remark: ”“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.”
What does that have to do with it?
Is it meant to make for a stronger case?
Are Nigerian people known for hunting under aged girls down?

sinscriven's avatar

If this gets taken to US courts I bet it will be thrown out.

Facebook has to abide by COPPA laws which require users to be at least 13 years old to register for anything on any site that may collect information about them and/or have parent guardian permission. This is standard for any American internet site and requires a confirmation that the user is legally able to sign up. The dad either approved this, or the child lied.

While this law may not hold any water in Irish courts, it does prove that the girl acted in bad faith by signing up to Facebook.

I fail to see how facebook has any blame for a kid who lies about her age to get in, and gets in trouble when her dad knowing full well she is very young, impressionable, and prone to behavioral issues allowed her to have an account and wasn’t supervising her like any reasonable parent would be.

If EU Safe harbor laws are similar to US ones, then If facebook could argue they did due dilligence in removing questionable content in a reasonable time, then they can’t be held liable for it.

Ltryptophan's avatar

@rebbel she likely doesn’t know people in Nigeria… She is friending complete strangers.

CWOTUS's avatar

Does the entire world have to be made safe for 12-year-olds to play in… with zero supervision?

I think the suit is groundless. It’s not just Facebook, but the entire online community – everywhere – that would have to be made “safe” for children who will abuse the current voluntary restrictions. I have no doubt at all that there are below-age minors on Fluther, and I’m sure that they’re exposed to adult conversations and links all the time. They may even engage in PM with other members, and who knows what goes on there?

In the end, people have to be responsible for their own condition. And in the case of minors, parents need to be responsible for them.

If the girl had been abused or kidnapped and the photos posted without her knowledge or consent, then that would be a different issue. But since Facebook’s nominal “age of consent” is 13, and it’s voluntary to admit that or pretend to be that old, this is splitting hairs, anyway. The girl could do all of the things next year that her parents are supposedly concerned about this year, and what does it matter that she jumped the gun by a few months?

rebbel's avatar

@Ltryptophan Ah, i see, I understand it now, thank you for that!
But then again, isn’t almost everybody on Facebook befriending complete strangers (friends from friends from friends) besides the people that they do know?

john65pennington's avatar

If I were an attorney for Facebook, our defense would the “lack of childrens access to certain parts and activities of Facebook, in which the parent did not install in order to prevent his daughters actions and access to the world”.

There are parental controls on pcs and the father did not take advantage of this feature in order to protect his daughter, especially knowing she has a mental problem.

This situation lies fault with the father, not Facebook.

stardust's avatar

I agree. I find it absolutely farcical that he should take a case against Facebook. He should be monitoring the actions of his 12 year old daughter. It screams lazy parenting to me, along with a hunger for some cash. I feel as though that’s what it comes down to, for ultimately if he was so concerned to begin with, he would’ve been monitoring his daughter more closely.

Scota's avatar

No, I do not think it is okay for him to sue Facebook. If he is so concerned then he needs to teach his child the right behavior. If she is only 12 years old then he needs to have full access to her account at all times or not allow her to use the internet if he is running into this sort of issue. He is the parent so he needs to take care of his child and not blame Facebook for something they have not done but rather actions that his child most likely did. Sounds like the child needs to not be allowed to use the internet if incapable of making right choices.

Jellie's avatar

Why isn’t the state prosecuting the father/caretaker for putting the minor in danger of being preyed upon by paedophiles by neglecting proper care and attention? We are constantly passing the buck nowadays. Facebook is not responsible for the proper up bringing of your child!

stardust's avatar

Agreed. There’s ways around this kind of thing. It’s sparked a lot of controversy in this country with the vast majority agreeing that it is the parents responsibility to ensure the child is using the internet in a safe manner.

MissAusten's avatar

I don’t think the father has a case, but I also don’t think it should automatically follow that he’s an irresponsible, uncaring parent. The article doesn’t say the girl is under his care; it says she is in a special facility because she has behavioral problems. She could have access to a computer there (in which case, the father should be addressing his complaints to the facility), at school, at a friend’s house, or at the library. It is impossible for a parent to monitor a 12 year old’s activities 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Anyone who thinks otherwise is delusional.

So, we have a young girl who doesn’t live at home with behavioral problems posting inappropriate photos on Facebook. I know it’s crazy, but the only person responsible for this is the 12 year old. The father should drop it and arrange for better supervision since the girl clearly can’t or won’t moderate her own behavior with an understanding of the risks involved.

Facebook is an easy target for the father’s embarrassment, anger, and worry.

Blackberry's avatar

No, he’s too sensitive and didn’t think it through. Facebook doesn’t face millions of people to post their pictures.

Hibernate's avatar

Hell yeah. As long as Facebook goes down everything goes, lawsuits are the best way to start ^^

I do not approve Facebook only for one reason. They claim to protect your privacy while they share your personal details everywhere and every time they get an occasion to do so. Why the hell when you link any other account with Facebook you need to let Facebook access your personal details. F it !!

I hope this father wins the case.[ If not I hope the hackers who said they will bring down Facebook are people of their word ^^]

El_Cadejo's avatar

Do I loathe facebook? Yes.

Do I think facebook is at fault? Hell no.

I dont know how to watch my daughter to make sure she isnt doing anything she shouldnt be while on the computer so im just going to take it out on the website grrrrrr.

Grow the fuck up and learn how to be a responsible parent.

@MissAusten sure its impossible to physically monitor her at all times. But you need to remember we live in a highly digital age. It is extremely easy to set up blocks and firewalls on a computer that would have prevented all of this from ever happening.

CWOTUS's avatar

@Hibernate we’ll miss you – and each other – when the natural fallout takes out Fluther, too.

JLeslie's avatar

Blaming Facebook is like blaming the internet. I don’t see how the case has any merit.

Hibernate's avatar

One thing when it goes away by itself. It’s not like it’s that bad here. There are personal information but it’s not like you “have” to share with third party sites whenever it suits them.

JLeslie's avatar

@Hibernate I do agree that Facebook has to do something about some of their privacy problems. My biggest gripe, if you have not seen me write it before, is that when I write on someone else’s wall, my friends, even those who are not friends with the person’s wall I wrote on, can see what I wrote, that to me is not logical and not expected.

Hibernate's avatar

I do not know how Facebook works because I did not became a member there. But I believe this “wall” is like a guest book where everyone can leave a message or so. That should not be private. Maybe they should not allow who posted it.

JLeslie's avatar

@Hibernate We can control who can post on our own wall.

Hibernate's avatar

While this is very convenient if you let a friend say something I believe others can trace him via that comment. Or is it not true?

JLeslie's avatar

@hibernate Not sure what your question is asking. If you write a comment on my wall, maybe under a status update I made, all my friends can see what you wrote. But, none of your friends will see it if they are not friends with me, because I only let my friends see my wall. Unless the privacy rules regarding that have changed and I don’t know it.

MissAusten's avatar

@uberbatman On a computer at home, yes. But computers in other places, like libraries or friends’ homes, might not have those safeguards. That’s why we try to teach kids how to stay safe and make good choices. But being kids, they don’t always do what they’ve been told is correct. I can’t control all of the computers my daughter might have access to, just the ones here at home.

stardust's avatar

@MissAusten Would you agree than that it would be suitable to have access to daughter’s password for her Facebook account? I think it’s a good compromise if kids are going to be on facebook in the first place (personally, I don’t agree with kids having an account). However, it allows for them to interact with their peers under the parents’ supervision.

6rant6's avatar

I don’t believe the story.

Imagine you are the father mentioned. You discover your daughter has put herself in danger by putting information on her Facebook profile. What is the first thing you are going to do?

Clearly, you call Facebook, inform them your daughter is 12, and she does not have permission to have an account. Make them close it. At the least, they’d suspend it while they determined the truth of the matter.

Obviously, this father did not take that obvious, rudimentary, and brainless step. He first hired a lawyer? I don’t believe the story.

Hibernate's avatar

@JLeslie remember I don’t know how Facebook works. I only said how I think it worked so feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.

@6rant6 there’s like no way you can phone directly to Facebook headquarters to say “Yo! people. My daughter is 12.” That phone would ring 24/7 ^^

lemming's avatar

I don’t think you could just say he’s to blame, he’s a bad father who isn’t keeping an eye on her. He is a bad parent? So what? That doesn’t mean his daughter should be punished (and badly punished if any of the fathers fears came to pass). Fact is alot of parents are bad parents, so we do have to think of measures to be put in place to protect the young. Facebook isn’t suitable for youngsters, and anything else like that (alcohol, cigarettes), has measures to stop young people from accessing it. So basically you are relying on the under twelve year olds good judgement to keep themselves from going on the site? And all their friends are on it? Something could be done, maybe not convieniently, but something should be done, even here on fluther.(for the nsfw)

JLeslie's avatar

@Hibernate I understand. :) Even when people have Facebook accounts they are confused to what people can and can’t see. It is confusing. More confusing if you don’t use it, because of all the lingo.

6rant6's avatar

@Hibernate You’re joking, right? You couldn’t find a phone number for Facebook in an emergency? And how many days do you think it took him to hire that attorney? If nothing else, HE could have gone onto her profile and deleted the profile. Do you think the “voluntary care institution” would have facilitated that? Damn straight.

Are there any parents out there who would not have gotten thing offline immediately?

augustlan's avatar

Definitely not. And this is why we insist that our children ‘friend’ us on Facebook, and that they give up their passwords if we ask for them.

augustlan's avatar

[mod says] This is our Question of the Day!

deni's avatar

No, I don’t really agree. It’s not Facebook’s fault she did it. That’s his responsibility to raise a child who doesn’t want to post nude pics on facebook at age 12. 12? really? What’s there even to see? Gross. But I guess in his position, you want someone to blame, and most people aren’t a big fan of blaming themselves for their kids issues.

MissAusten's avatar

@uberbatman Yes, I would want my child’s password and insist on being “friends.” But I can see a scenario where a parent who isn’t on Facebook wouldn’t know the child has an account if he or she set it up elsewhere. She could have even used a different name (which I know people sometimes do for privacy purposes). It’s very possible he didn’t even know she had a FB page. Now, if the father knew the girl was on FB and took no steps to monitor her activity, he was being irresponsible. From the information given here though, we have no way of knowing those kinds of details and can only guess.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

Not at all. He’s the parent, and he fucked up. That’s it.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

I think it is a desperate man looking for a payday off his daughter’s back like that Clauson girl and her modeling pics. If the facts are correct, she is a provocative wild child in a voluntary care facility. Where were they, and why were they not monitoring her online activities? The fact that FaceBook jumped on it right away removing the offensive content when they were made aware of it Could FaceBook check to make sure those who are under 13 stay off the site? They could, it might take more steps and more effort for anyone under 18 to access it but it could be done. By not doing so is that tantamount to being reckless? I don’t think so. I think it will bet tossed out on its ear.

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