In 2011, a teacher in France posted an image of a sexually explicit 19th-century painting on Facebook and had his profile blocked. Now his case is in French court to determine if he can claim about $22,300 in damages from the social networking giant for “failing to distinguish pornography from art.”
This case has dragged on for some time already. In January, Facebook’s lawyers argued that the site’s Terms of Service said that cases involving it must be litigated in California, the company’s home base. However, the French high court rejected that argument, saying that it essentially made it impossible for any French citizen to sue the site.
While this may seem like an inconsequential case, it could actually have huge effects for the future of Facebook’s relationship with user information. As TIME Magazine points out, the central question of the case is simple: can Facebook’s own rules override the laws of a country it operates in? Perhaps even more importantly, the case could challenge the terms that users agree to when they join the site. Facebook derives a lot of control over user information based on those terms, but if court cases like this one begin poking holes in it, that control could significantly lessen.