Syrian refugee sues Facebook over terrorist posts

Injunction sought against social media firm and users who uploaded fake claims

 Mr Anas Modamani  has filed suit against Facebook in a regional court, accusing the social network of aiding incitment by spreading posts with false claims he was an Islamist terrorist.

Mr Anas Modamani has filed suit against Facebook in a regional court, accusing the social network of aiding incitment by spreading posts with false claims he was an Islamist terrorist.

 

A Syrian refugee in Germany has filed a suit against Facebook in a regional court, accusing the social network of aiding incitment by spreading posts with false claims he was an Islamist terrorist.

Anas Modamani rose to prominence in Germany in September 2015 for taking a selfie with Chancellor Angela Merkel on his smartphone as she visited a Berlin refugee facility.

Since then, however, the photo has been reposted to Facebook several times via anonymous accounts. One post claimed he was one of the suspects who set fire to a homeless man in a Berlin train station in December; other posts linked him to the March 2016 Brussels airport bombing and last December’s Christmas market attack in Berlin. The false posts accompanied by messages such as “Merkel took a selfie with the perpetrator” were shared hundreds of times on the social network, according to Mr Modamani’s lawyer.

“I took a selfie and people abused that, which annoys me, because I’ve done nothing,” said Mr Modamani (19), who came to Berlin in 2015, lives in Berlin and is studying German. “I’m not a terrorist.”

On Monday in the Bavarian city of Würzburg, his lawyer demanded injuction against Facebook and the users who uploaded fake posts. The lawyer, Mr Chan-jo Jun, is demanding the court clarify Facebook’s legal responsibilities in such cases, and for the company to alter its procedures.

Misleading

Mr Jun says the procedure of reporting problematic posts is cumbersome and misleading. The way to demand a post is check is not to click the “report” button beside a post, he said, but a separate form inside the help section.

“Facebook gives its users the runaround,” he said. “This case is about ending the incitement and defamation.”

Lawyers for Facebook ruled out paying damages to Mr Modamani but did not rule out a Europe-wide deletion of the problematic posts, if the company agrees.

The case follows plans by Germany’s ruling grand coalition government to fine the US company unless it reponds within 24 hours to reports of problematic posts.

On Monday the Würzburg court said, failing an agreement in the case between both sides, it would issue a verdict on March 7th.

After the hearing, the young Syrian man said he was optimistic about the ruling over the posts and the use of his fateful selfie with Angela Merkel.

“That picture changed my life,” he said.