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Facebook ordered to back up child access claim

By Alan Erwin

Published 04/08/2015

Facebook must supply more details on claims that it removes up to 20,000 under-age users daily, a High Court judge has ordered
Facebook must supply more details on claims that it removes up to 20,000 under-age users daily, a High Court judge has ordered

Facebook must supply more details on claims that it removes up to 20,000 under-age users daily, a High Court judge has ordered.

Presiding over a privacy lawsuit, Mr Justice Stephens held that the firm had provided insufficient information about child access.

Facebook is being sued for alleged negligence and breach of privacy by the father of a vulnerable Northern Ireland schoolgirl who set up accounts to contact men and post sexual photos.

Under the company's policy, no one under 13 is allowed. But with the girl under a care order, lawyers for her father said an open registration system meant it was too easy for her to set up an account and potentially risk exposure to paedophiles and extreme content.

The court was told how, after setting up an account aged 11 and posting sexually suggestive photos, the girl allegedly received messages of an extreme sexual nature from older men.

Her accounts were deactivated as soon as reports were sent to the company, but the girl's barrister, Peter Girvan, said Facebook should have done more to stop her setting up profiles at all.

As part of legal preparations, the company was in June directed to provide details of what supervisory steps it had taken and what training it had offered its moderators. Mr Girvan returned to court yesterday 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 removed 20,000 under-age 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. If there are Facebook statistics, then there's an obligation to give discovery of all documents."

He directed the social media company to re-answer more than 20 questions ahead of a trial due to begin next month.

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