A court in Paris is to hear the case of a teacher who is suing Facebook because his account was suspended when he posted a picture of a nude 19th century painting.
The case his being heard on Thursday despite a protracted effort by Facebook to escape legal proceedings in France.
Parisian teacher Frederic Durand-Baissas’ account was suspended in 2016, hours after the art lover posted a photo of Gustave Courbet’s 1866 oil painting ‘The Origin of the World,’ which depicts female genitalia.
A visitor takes a picture of Gustave Courbet’s 1866 ‘The Origin of the World,’ at Musee d’Orsay museum, in Paris – the image that led to the suspension of Frederic Durand-Baissas’ Facebook account (12 February 2016 file photo)
Frederic Durand-Baissas, a 59-year-old Parisian teacher and art lover, argues that he has in effect being censored by Facebook
‘The Origin of the World, depicts female genitalia (file photo)
Durand-Baissas, 59, wants his account reactivated and is asking for $23,500 in damages. He also wants Facebook to explain why his account was closed.
Facebook has since changed its standards policy to now allow photographs of nude figures in art.
‘This is a case of free speech and censorship on a social network,’ Durand-Baissas said in February 2016.
‘If [Facebook] can’t see the difference between an artistic masterpiece and a pornographic image, we in France [can].’
Facebook at the time was reluctant to give an explanation for the suspended account.
Lawyers for the social media website have in the past argued that such lawsuits should only be heard by a specific court in California where Facebook has its headquarters.
They have also maintained that French consumer rights law can’t apply to its users in France because its worldwide service is free.
If [Facebook] can’t see the difference between an artistic masterpiece and a pornographic image, we in France [can]
Legal experts say that any ruling by a court in Durand-Baissas’ favour could set a legal precedent in France, where Facebook has more than 30 million regular users.
Critics say that while Facebook shows permissiveness regarding violence, it displays an extreme prudishness regarding the body and nudity.
The French government has lobbied Silicon Valley tech giants to take down violent extremist material, notably after deadly attacks in Paris last year.