Facebook loses appeal as court rules in favor of nudity

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Facebook-nudity-case-L'Origine-du-monde-by-Gustave-Courbet
We'd make this our cover photo, but that might just be asking for trouble.
Photo: "L'Origine du monde" by Daniele Dalledonne, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 / Cropped and Facebook logo with drop shadow added.

An earlier ruling in the Facebook nudity case has prevailed as a court has ruled that the social-media giant can be sued anywhere in the world.

Facebook had appealed last year’s decision, which said that the company was incorrect to suspend a French art teacher’s account that included a picture of a nude painting. The California-based company argued, unsuccessfully, that users could only sue it under the laws of that state.

Frederic Durand-Baissas had his social-media account suspended after he posted an image of L’Origine du monde, an 1866 painting by Gustave Courbet. The work, shown (mostly) above, depicts a nude woman. Facebook’s terms of service say, in part, “You will not post content that: is hate speech, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence.”

While the image does, in fact, contain nudity, Baissas claimed that Facebook had censored him and filed a suit in 2011 for reinstatement of his account and €20,000 (app. $22,487) in damages. We aren’t sure that any Facebook account is worth five figures, but the court seemed to think it was, so it found in his favor.

The “Disputes” section of Facebook’s ToS says:

You will resolve any claim, cause of action or dispute (claim) you have with us arising out of or relating to this Statement or Facebook exclusively in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California or a state court located in San Mateo County, and you agree to submit to the personal jurisdiction of such courts for the purpose of litigating all such claims. The laws of the State of California will govern this Statement, as well as any claim that might arise between you and us, without regard to conflict of law provisions.

The Parisian court thought that this policy was incredibly inconvenient for the billions of claimants who don’t happen to live in California, so it upheld the decision against Facebook, requiring the company to respect the earlier finding’s authority and pay up.

This ruling could affect other companies in the future because it sets a precedent that it is not up to them to decide where they may face legal action. But it also introduces potential complications due to the fact that Facebook and other platforms with global communities may now be subject to the individual laws of every country in which they are available.

But for now, however, the naked-lady painting can stay on Frederic Durand-Baissas’ page, however much it might bother the prudes who own it.