Father fails in legal bid to ban ‘vulnerable’
daughter, 13, from Facebook

Facebook has more than one billion profiles from across the world using its social network site

A High Court judge has rejected calls from the father of a troubled 13-year-old to force Facebook to forbid her from accessing her account in a case which highlights the difficulties some parents face in stopping children accessing inappropriate content online.

The father, who cannot be named for legal reasons, wanted judges to force Facebook to take “any steps necessary” in stopping the girl accessing the website after she used it to post a series of sexually suggestive pictures and have “sexualised contact” with older men.

However Facebook admitted that it was powerless to stop the girl using an account because she could simply create new ones under different pseudonyms and access the site from a multitude of different devices.

The case illustrates some of the concerns parents have over lax controls and monitoring systems Facebook employs for the more than one billion users who have signed up to a profile with the social media giant. Although Facebook insists only those aged 13 or above can create a profile on their site, the social network does not use any age or identity verification systems. Instead it relies on users to report content that is inappropriate or breaches the site’s lengthy terms and conditions.

Sitting in the High Court in Belfast, Mr Justice McCloskey said Facebook’s defence largely rested on the idea that “it has created something of a monster which it alleges it cannot control”.

Nonetheless he threw out the father’s bid for an interim injunction forcing Facebook to halt the girl accessing the site because it was far too broad in its scope, was unworkable and could not be monitored.

The girl herself has a troubled background and a history of inappropriate, over-sexualised behaviour. She is described as a “vulnerable young lady who is beyond parental control” and who has spent much of the last two years in a secure unit. She has repeatedly absconded and been found in company of older males consuming drugs and alcohol.

Over the course of a nine month period in 2011 the girl – who was then aged 12 - created a total of four Facebook profiles in which she often posted explicit photos and had inappropriate contact with older men. Each time the girl’s father complained using Facebook’s reporting procedures and the profiles were taken down within 24 hours. In one profile, the girl had joined a group containing 63,000 members which encouraged users to send in sexually suggestive photographs.

Whilst in care the local authorities and her parents took steps to stop her accessing the internet via different devices and the judge found that there was no evidence any offending publication has exposed her to risk since the summer of 2012. However the girl has recently left secure accommodation to live with her mother. According to a statement provided by her father, she has claimed to have set up a new Facebook account under a false name which her parents cannot access or find.

In a defence submitted to the court, Facebook said there was little way it could monitor whether the girl went on to set up new profiles. “It would be unfeasible for Facebook to review over 1 billion profiles and millions of uploaded posts to determine if a particular individual has posted content online,” the website stated. “All Facebook can do is act expeditiously every time it receives a report about unlawful or abusive content.”

The site also insisted that much of the responsibility for how teenagers or children access the site should rest with the parents. “Facebook rejects the notion of broad censorship to prevent a single individual from creating a user account and profile,” the website’s defence stated. “At some point, responsibility must rest with a parent or guardian.”

However Mr Justice McCloskey predicted that Facebook’s argument that it was effectively powerless to stop certain children accessing the site might not be successful “in an appropriate case” in the future and would need to be probed in further legal action.

“It is inevitable that this plea of impotence will be subjected to intense judicial scrutiny, not least because the proceedings involve a child,” he said.

A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Morrissey pictured in 2013
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Robyn Lawley
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmThe film is surprisingly witty, but could do with taking itself more seriously, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Life and Style
lifeDon't get caught up on climaxing
Life and Style
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Technical / Engineering Manager - West Yorkshire - £50k+

£45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: The company ...

MS Dynamics NAV Developer

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: **MS Dynamics N...

Data Analytics Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client who are a leading organisation...

1st line call logger/ User access administrator

£9 Per Hour: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Warrington a...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star