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Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Here is the Syrian refugee taking Facebook to court over fake news

Anas Modamani couldn't believe his luck in August 2015 when German chancellor, Angela Merkel made a brief visit to the Berlin shelter where Modamani, a refugee from Syria, happened to be living.

Modamani was able to snap a quick selfie with the German chancellor who has a lot of reservations about refugees. The selfie went viral and was even featured on the front pages of national newspapers and talked about on the nightly news because it captured the reserved German leader in a rare unscripted moment. 

But the photo was soon used for negative purposes, hijacked by fake news producers who repeatedly used Modamani's name and likeness in social media posts about terrorism. 

The first time Anas' photo was used wrongly was in March 2016 after the deadly Brussels airport bombing. It was used again when a syrian refugee was killed by a bomb in Ansbach, Germany, and also in the Berlin attack where a Tunisian man drove a truck through a christmas market in Berlin. All those times, Anas' face was splashed on fake news site as the attacker.

Anas who already had a foster home on the outskirts of Berlin and a job with McDonald's was devastated when a friend showed him a Facebook post that had his face and name as the suspect of the Brussels bombing.

He said, "I cried as I thought 'this is not me'. I thought immediately 'what does this mean? what would the future hold? This is really not a joke now. It's serious'".

This led Anas and his foster mother, Anke Meeuw, to report the post to Facebook, demanding that it be taken down and it was, but at that time hundreds of thousands of people had shared, making it viral. Subsequent times, when Anas' photo was used as the suspect in other attacks, they reported to Facebook again but were told that the photo is not against the standard of Facebook. This led the family to turn to Chun-jo Jun, a lawyer specializing in IT and media law in Germany, to help them sue Facebook for taking too long to respond to requests to take down the false news. The case will be heard in Germany starting on Monday.

Facebook responded to this in a statement which read; "We are sorry to hear about Mr. Modamani's concern with the way some people have used his image. We have already quickly disabled access to content that has been accurately reported to us by Mr. Modamani's legal representatives, so we do not believe that legal action here is necessary or that it is the most effective way to resolve the situation."

Chun-jo Jun said that the court will decide if Facebook did enough by simply removing the offending post or whether they also must ensure that fake news sites using the photos cannot be uploaded in the first place.

Anas foster mother has revealed that this development has affected their family greatly causing them to screen every email due to the threat mails pouring in and also having to constantly look out of the house for suspicious vehicles.

Anas, who has received death threats,hopes that taking Facebook to court will set a precedent that will eventually curb the spread of falsehood.
" I will find a solution. It's not just me. If anybody can write what they like on Facebook, spreading these falsehoods and no one is punished, then it's not only my problem, it's the problem of the world. He said.

Source: CNN 

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