A French teacher who accused Facebook of censorship when they deleted his account, has had his day in court. Frédéric Durand-Baïssasor posted an image of L’Origine du monde (Origin of the World) by Gustave Courbet, painted in 1866. The work of art is a depiction of a woman’s genitals which allegedly breached Facebook’s strict policy on nudity. He will learn the outcome of the eight-year case, on 15 March.
“Calling Courbet a pornographer… is to call me a pornographer.” – Frédéric Durand-Baïssas
The legitimacy of Facebook’s power to limit users freedom of expression in France has been challenged, which opens up a gigantic can of worms. Frédéric Durand-Baïssas has demanded the social network reinstate his account and pay him €20,000 (£15,521; $25,000) in damages. He originally sued the US-based international company in 2011. Lawyers said Facebook couldn’t reactivate Durand-Baissas’ first account because all data was removed 90 days after suspension.
The test case will pave the way for other lawsuits against the giant outside the US jurisdiction. Facebook fought tooth and nail to have the case heard in Calfornia, but the French court overruled it. The 59-year old told AP: “Calling Courbet a pornographer… is to call me a pornographer.”
Defence lawyers have argued in court that the plaintiff’s account was closed down because he had used an alias instead of his real name. M. Durand-Baïssas explained he did so to retain his privacy because of his job. “This is merely a case of contractual termination,” Lyannaz the lawyer’s for Facebook stated, “There is no violation of freedom of speech here.”
The Lawyer for Durand-Baissas, Stephane Cottineau, retorted that Facebook was relying on “legal quibbles” to avoid dealing with the core issue.
Facebook has also argued the lawsuit should be dismissed because Durand-Baissas didn’t sue the correct Facebook company. They believe the teacher should have sued Facebook Ireland, the web host for its service in France, and not the California-based parent company, Facebook Inc. “Facebook Inc. can’t explain why Facebook Ireland deactivated M. Durand-Baissas’ account,” but it is thought it was an algorithm or bots that were to blame for flagging the well known masterpiece in the first place.
This is not an isolated case, The famous statue of “The Little Mermaid’ in Copenhagen was been banned by Facebook for indecency. The Danish Social Democrat MP Mette Gjerskov accused Mark Zuckerberg’s social network of blocking out the image she uploaded to her blog. The 102-year-old bronze statue, situated on a rocky plinth on the Langelinie promenade, is one of Copenhagen’s best known tourist attractions and can be compared to the Statue Of Liberty.
The original 19th-Century work proudly hangs in the Musee d’Orsay in Paris.
See Artlyst’s Top Ten Erotic Works Of Art – to see where we place Gustave Courbet’s ‘The Origin of the World’ – Here
Photo: P C Robinson © Artlyst 2018