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Belfast judge orders Facebook to supply more details of claims it removes 20,000 underage users a day

Published 03/08/2015

Facebook is being sued by for alleged negligence and breaching right to privacy
Facebook is being sued by for alleged negligence and breaching right to privacy

Facebook must supply more details on claims it removes up to 20,000 underage users daily, a High Court judge ordered on Monday.

Mr Justice Stephens held that the social networking giant has provided insufficient information about child access to the site and other issues raised as part of a major privacy lawsuit in Belfast.

Details are being sought in an action being taken against the company on behalf of a vulnerable Northern Ireland schoolgirl who set up accounts to contact men and post sexual photos.

Facebook is being sued by her father for alleged negligence and breaching her right to privacy.

Under its policy no-one under 13 is allowed to be a user.

But with the girl now under a care order, lawyers for her father claim an open registration system meant it was too easy for her to establish profiles and potentially risk exposure to paedophiles and extreme content.

From the age of 11 she created four different accounts to publish sexually suggestive and inappropriate photos, the court heard previously.

She received text messages with extreme sexual content from men as a result of her personal details appearing on Facebook, it is alleged.

However, her accounts were deactivated as soon as reports were received by the company.

The girl's barrister, Peter Girvan, claims Facebook should have done more to stop her setting up and operating  accounts.

As part of continuing legal preparations they sought an order compelling the social media company to provide more information on site content and what supervisory steps were taken.

In June the judge directed it to answer a series of questions, including requests for information on images of real and simulated suicide and pornographic images that appear on its pages.

It was also compelled to supply details on what training it provides for moderators to deal with children under 13 who gain access to the site.

Mr Girvan returned to court today to argue that the responses were insufficient.

Agreeing with his assessment, Mr Justice Stephens noted how a Facebook advisor reportedly told the Australian Parliament that he had heard the company removes 20,000 underage users a day.

The judge held there had been no attempt to bring definition about where those figures came from.

He said: "There's an obligation to obtain this information... and provide a full reply," he said.

"If there are Facebook statistics then there's an obligation to give discovery of all documents in relation to those statistics.

In total he directed that the company should re-answer more than 20 questions posed by the plaintiff's legal team ahead of a trial due to begin next month.

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