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French court sets precedent in Facebook vagina artwork censorship battle


By John McCarthy, Opinion editor

March 6, 2015 | 2 min read

A Paris court has announced that it can preside over a French citizen's legal case against Facebook in a battle against the censorship of a vagina painting, despite the social network’s terms and conditions stating it can only be tried in the US.

The case was sparked in 2011 by the deletion of teacher and father of three, Frédéric Durand-Baissas’ Facebook account after he uploaded Gustave Courbet’s l’Origine du Monde (The Origin of the World) artwork.

The incident saw Baissas claim Facebook cannot tell the difference between pornography and art.

Baissas’ lawyer said that Facebook’s terms and conditions claiming it can only receive legal actions from Californian-based courts was “abusive” and discriminating against France’s 22 million users - depriving them of a legal voice in their home nation.

The teacher's legal team dubbed the decision made yesterday (Thursday 5 March) as the "first victory won by David against Goliath,” adding that it “will create jurisprudence for other social media and other internet giants who use their being headquartered abroad, mainly in the US, to attempt to evade French law”.

Facebook told AFP that the “standards of the community have evolved,” stating that it now allows the posting of nude artworks, but not photographs of said pieces.

On nudity, Facebook rules state: “Facebook has a strict policy against the sharing of pornographic content [and] we also impose limitations on the display of nudity.

“We aspire to respect people’s right to share content of personal importance, whether those are photos of a sculpture like Michelangelo's David or family photos of a child breastfeeding."


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