14-year-old sues Facebook over naked photos

Barristers claim image was obtained by blackmail and uploaded as a form of revenge

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The Independent Online

A 14-year-old girl is suing Facebook after a naked photograph of her was posted on the site.

Lawyers for the teenager from Northern Ireland claim the picture was obtained by blackmail and published on a 'shame' page as a form of revenge.

The girl is taking legal action against Facebook and the man who posted the image in what is believed to be the first case of its kind in the world.

At a hearing in the High Court in Belfast, one of the teenager's barristers, Edward Fitzgerard QC, said blocking the sharing of the image should have been a “red-line” issue for the company.

“A naked 14-year-old's picture was being put on a shame page,” Mr Fitzgerald said.

“If they had blocked it all this subsequent publication of her naked image would not have taken place.”

The teenager's two barristers, Mr Fitzgerald and Peter Girvan, compared uploading and distributing the image to an act of child abuse.

Brett Lockhart QC, acting on behalf of Facebook, argued the claim for damages should be dismissed.

He referred to a European directive that he argued provided protection from having to monitor a vast amount of online material.

Mr Lockhart also stressed that the social networking site would have deleted the image immediately if it had been notified.

But Mr Fitzgerald contended that Facebook had the power to block any republication of the photograph by using a DNA process to identify the image.

The girl, who cannot be identified, is seeking damages for misuse of private information, negligence and breach of the Data Protection Act.

The judge reserved his decision on an application to have the case halted.

On Tuesday, an official report revealed that more than 200 prosecutions have been brought since new laws to tackle revenge porn were rolled out across the UK.

The offence - which carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison - was introduced in April last year after calls from campaigners and victims to criminalise the distribution of private sexual images of an individual without their consent.

Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders said: “There is a growing trend of crimes committed on or through social media.

”The use of the internet, social media and other forms of technology to humiliate, control and threaten individuals is rising.“

As a result of this trend and the new law, social networking sites are being put under increased pressure to tackle abuse online, including revenge porn.

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