A Northern Ireland man has sued Facebook after his 12-year-old daughter was able to post lewd photos of herself to the social network, reports the BBC. The lawsuit has called into question whether Facebook, which officially bars anyone under the age of 13 from becoming a member, does enough to verify the age of its users.
“My own personal view is that Facebook isn’t suitable for under-18s, but the company isn’t even able to uphold its own policy of keeping under-13s out,” said Hilary Carmichael, the father’s lawyer. “An age check, like asking for a passport number, would be a simple measure for Facebook to implement.”
According to Charmichael, the photos in question were “sexually explicit,” and showed the girl “heavily made-up,” and “in a provocative pose,” which made her appear “much older than her 12 years.”
The girl also reportedly posted information about where she lives and which school she attends.
The lawsuit, filed in a Belfast High Court on Monday, claims that Facebook was “guilty of negligence.” It also alleges that the Palo Alto, California-based website created “a risk of sexual and physical harm” to the girl.
If the girl’s account is not deleted by Facebook, the lawsuit promises that “an application will be made to stop Facebook operating in Northern Ireland,” according to Charmichael’s website.
Ms. Charmichael has also created another website, called “Children on Facebook,” which seeks to find other concerned parents who believe their children’s rights have been infringed upon by Facebook in the same way.
The case also raises the question: Who is responsible for the well-being of children online, Facebook, parents, or both?
In 2008, Facebook’s now-former Chief Privacy Officer, Chris Kelly, responded to the New York state attorney general at the time, Andrew Cuomo, (now Governor Cuomo), who said Facebook was “a magnet for those who prey on the young.” Kelly told The Sunday Times of London that both sides must play their part.
“There are multiple layers of responsibility and the core for us is to provide the tools that will be effective at protecting kids,” said Kelly. He added: “One of the things that you have to do is educate kids not to meet anyone that they only know online, and to tell their parents where they’re going and what they’re doing, and have the parents be an active participant in their lives.”
Facebook has not yet responded to this most recent lawsuit.