What would you do if you came across pornographic pictures of your 12-year-old child on Facebook? A father in Northern Ireland faced said trouble recently – and he’s chosen to go after the social media giant in court. To protect the identity of the naughty daughter, the father’s name was not released.
The plaintiff’s counsel, Hilary Carmichael, explained that her client felt that the pictures his daughter posted on Facebook attracted pedophiles; he blames Facebook for “negligence” since the company does not have stringent enough procedures in place to protect against underage children creating accounts.
In an interview with the BBC, Carmichael said she thought Facebook should require users to provide a passport number, as an age verification method.
Presumably to avoid violating COPPA mandates, Facebook’s infamous Statement of Rights and Responsibilities clearly indicates that nobody under the age is permitted to open an account; but according to a recent study, it’s estimated that approximately 7.5 million Facebook users are under the age of 13.
The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act places significant restrictions on what data can be collected from those aged 13 and younger. It also lays out rules regarding the type of parental consent required for sites that cater to kids. Presumably and smartly, Facebook purposefully established their platform as an over-13 place, so as to avoid an FTC COPPA-hassle.
Belfast’s High Court will be deciding the case. Writs were lodged against the Ireland and Palo Alto Facebook offices and the Northern Ireland Health and Social Care Trust, for negligence. The accusing party is demanding an injunction to have his daughter’s Facebook page permanently removed without the possibility of re-creation. The father also vowed that if his request is not granted, he’ll push to have Facebook operations in his country shut down.
When asked for a statement about the lawsuit, Facebook representatives gently chastised, “Just as parents are always teaching and reminding kids how to cross the road safely, talking about internet safety should be just as important a lesson to learn.” The social networking giant does not seem to be too worried about this latest piece of litigation that’s landed on their lanai, and seems to be using the incident as a way to further publicize their new security features and procedures.
While it’s crucial for website operators to known and follow COPPA regulations, it’s also unreasonable to expect websites that ardently advertise an age limit to play parent and guardian to every mischievous tween and teen on the globe. Facebook’s user agreement will most likely save them in this legal battle – but hey, you never know; especially when it comes to the oft-targeted social media giant.
Do you own a website? Want to make sure you’re COPPA-compliant? Contact the Kelly Law Firm today for an affordable FTC website audit — it could save you dollars and legal battle headaches down the road. The Kelly Law firm focuses on Internet-related cases; we’ve helped thousands of clients with various aspects of Internet business. Contact us today at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-866-645-6004 for a consultation.