Dispute centres around an 1886 painting showing a naked woman lying down

France is locked in a legal dispute with Facebook over who gets to decide whether users can post pictures of a woman’s genitals on the social network.

The dispute centres around a teacher and father of three, Frédéric Durand-Baissas, who posted an 1886 painting called L'Origine du Monde ('the origin of the world') to the site. Facebook decided that the Gustave Courbet picture, which hangs in Paris’s Musée D'Orsay, was too offensive — taking it down and blocking Durand-Baissas.

The country has decided that French courts can hold a hearing about whether he should be banned from the service. It marks a huge precedent for Facebook — which claims that its terms of service mean that complaints can only be heard in California courts.

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A woman examines the Gustave Courbet's canvas 'L'origine du monde' (The origin of the world) before its installation at the Courbet museum on June 3, 2014, in Ornans, eastern France

In January, Facebook’s lawyers argued that Durand-Baissas’s complaint about the case couldn’t be heard in France. But the country’s high court said that the terms were “abusive” and that the case should be heard in France after all.

The case could mark a an important precedent not just for Facebook but for other US tech companies, who tend to see their social networks and other services as being based in and therefore overseen by the US.

The teacher will now seek €20,000 in damages, according to newspaper Le Figaro, and his lawyer heralded the case as a victory “by David against Goliath”.

As the Telegraph reported, the decision comes in the context of new scrutiny by French governments of the ways hate speech is spread on social media. In the wake of the Paris shootings and other recent attacks, the French government has explored ways of censoring or monitoring online communications.

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