|Image Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk|
Facts: A 12-year old girl from Northern Ireland posted suggestive pictures of herself on Facebook. The pictures portray the girl as heavily made-up doing provocative poses, making her appear much older than her actual age. Her father now sues Facebook for allowing his daughter to post the 'explicit photos'.
Issue: W/N Facebook can be made liable on the ground of negligence, for failing to verify the age of its users.
Discussion: Petitioner-father anchors his claim on the site's Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, particularly on item 4.5 which bars membership to those below 13 years of age. By failing to verify the age of the girl, Facebook allegedly failed to uphold it's own policy thereby making it liable for negligence as well for exposing the child at risk for sexual and physical harm.
Held: Case has not been decided yet and Facebook has not yet responded/commented as of 09/06/2011.
Notes (a.k.a Reality Check):
Perhaps (and I am not so sure about this) the only way that Facebook actually verifies the age of its members is by ticking the "I agree to the Terms and Conditions" and "I am over 13 years of age" boxes. Realistically speaking, with a gazillion users growing each day, checking violations of the age policy might prove to be impossible. Even if the company decides to place verification procedures, kids these days will find a way to circumvent the age requirement. It is worth noting that even child protection experts admitted that children will lie.
A lot of the comments/reactions regarding this news goes in the line of "Why blame FB when it was the child who posted her own photos?" or "The father's a failure." More than finger pointing to who's at fault -the child at her own volition; Facebook for violating its own policy; the Father for being a "failure" parent, -this case raises the issue of responsibility of child safety in the world wide web. Not only limited to social networking sites but child online privacy and protection in general. Parents cannot expect websites to police their own children. Likewise, sites cannot assume that everyone is complying with the age restriction. Again, online child safety (much like every policy formulation) requires a balancing act. But it is a much more complex set of relationships because according to Jim Gamble "there is a duty of care for the company, a clear duty of care for parents and a clear duty of care for anyone in whose care a child is put."
Entry No. 12