The father of a young girl has sued Facebook for failing to enforce its age restriction policy after claiming his daughter was exposed to sexual predators when she signed up for an account at age 11.
The girl, from Northern Ireland and referred to in court documents as GS, signed up for multiple accounts, posted sexual pictures of herself and contacted men on the social network.
One of the men she came into contact with responded with equally inappropriate pictures, despite the existence of a restraining order forbidding him from contacting her.
Even though Facebook later removed the girl’s accounts, lawyers for the family argued the social network had been “negligent” in its “duty of care” for her because it had no system in place to prevent underage users from misrepresenting their dates of birth – a situation that allowed her to return to the site multiple times while still under the age of 13.
The father’s legal team said the account creation system was not sufficiently robust at the time and could have benefited from even a “simple” age verification system based around the uploading of passports or other official documents. Solicitor Hilary Carmichael said:
My own personal view is that Facebook isn't suitable for under-18s, but the company isn't even able to uphold its own policy of keeping under-13s out. An age check, like asking for a passport number, would be a simple measure for Facebook to implement.
According to the International Business Times, lawyers also argued that an 11-year-old girl is not capable of giving consent to “throw away her privacy rights” under the Data Protection Act 1998.
After four years of legal back and forth, the case was finally due to be heard in a two-week trial scheduled to begin last Monday in the Northern Ireland High Court. That was, as the Daily Mail reports, until the man and Facebook came to an out of court settlement involving an undisclosed payout.
It will be interesting to see if that news now opens the floodgates for more claims against Facebook from parents whose underage children have signed up to the social network and whether other such sites with poorly enforced age restrictions will also be at risk of potential court action.
As for Facebook itself, a spokesman said:
People have to be 13 to sign up to Facebook. When we become aware that someone is under 13 and they have therefore lied about their age, we remove their account.
Regarding this legal case, all the parties are bound by the confidentiality terms – including Facebook.
If you are a parent or guardian with concerns over an underage child accessing Facebook then there are a few options available to you.
The social network itself suggests showing the child how to delete their account, but also offers a form for reporting accounts belonging to anyone under the age of 13. The company says where an account is reported, along with reasonable proof that the user is underage, it will delete the account promptly.
If your child is over the age of 13, gaining access to an account or having it deleted is likely to prove tricky – due to privacy laws – but Facebook does offer this advice:
We are generally forbidden by privacy laws against giving unauthorized access to someone who is not an account holder. We encourage parents to exercise any discretion they can on their own computers and in overseeing their kids' internet use. Please talk to your kids, educate them about internet safety, and ask them to use our extensive privacy settings.
Additionally, we have our own tips for you, such as how you can educate your child to make their Facebook account safer, including limiting who can see their timeline and make contact with them, and how to block someone on Facebook and remove unwanted content from their timelines.
We’ve also got the lowdown on other teen-centric sites and apps you should be aware of, as well as a reminder to you that even a parent’s own actions can have a detrimental effect on their child’s privacy and security online.
Finally, if your kids are accessing Facebook via smart devices when they are out and about, you may want to make sure they are not sharing their location with the world via their iOS or Android apps.
Image of girl logging into Facebook courtesy of Ttatty / Shutterstock.com
17 comments on “Dad sues Facebook after 11-year-old shared photos and messages with men”
In other words, it’s not my fault I’m an idiot and don’t know how to raise my child. You are supposed to do that for me so I have no responsibilities in life.
Facebook should never have settled and set that precedent, it means they took responsibility for this mans poor parenting. Now the floodgates WILL open, watch and see.
“no system in place to prevent underage users from misrepresenting their dates of birth” YES there IS a system in place, it’s called PARENTS. WHERE were they when she was posting sexual pictures of herself and contacting these men? What were they doing instead of watching their daughter?
As the parent of a teen that I ensured waiting until she was 14 to get an account there, I feel I have to point out that kids access the net not only at home, but on friend’s laptops at friends houses, at school, in libraries, on mobile phones…unless you watch your child 24/7 they can open accounts you don’t know about – it is great if you talk to your children and they listen and you maintain a good relationship, but even the best parents can’t always manage that as kids are their own people and don’t always listen to reason.
I do think that asking for credit card/passport/driving license is the way to go though, mobile phone companies do this to unlock ‘adult’ content via their data for example
How about no. It’s a ridiculous privacy violation to require someone to give out that kind of information. When you go to sites for alcohol, tobacco, etc, all you’re required to do is put in your birthday. If someone LIES about their birthday how is that the proprietor’s fault? It’s not.
So the kid lies, the parents don’t put in any security tools to monitor the kids or verify they are using the internet properly and Facebook ends up paying them money? Love how screwed up people are.
I seem to recall from early reports on this case that the child was in the care of the local authority when this happened. Dad kept reporting the accounts as they were created but the workers responsible for looking after the girl did nothing to stop her. The father is getting an absolute drubbing in Facebook comments (and on this site) yet in actual fact he WAS monitoring what his daughter was doing online and doing his duty as a father by reporting the accounts as and when he became aware of them.
Before anyone condemns him for having a child in care, there are a whole host of reasons for having a child in the care of the local authority, not all of them related to ‘bad’ parenting.
I’m on Windows XP and it’s September 2015. I am reading and commenting on your site.
So much for your warning at the top of the page.
Dad and Mom are responsible here for not setting parental controls. This is ridiculous.
If I get this right, he let his kid have a Facebook account and she posted the pictures and all the other stuff. But it is Facebook s fault he can not control his own child. I agree that Facebook lacks in deleting all false accounts ( there are so many fake celebrity ones) that I know people report all the time but they still are on the site. If people controlled their children & Facebook verified the reported accounts there would not be a problem by now Facebook has lost control of the false account just like this parent lost control of what his child did on social media. I think no matter what everyone loses in the end.
It should be the parents responsibility to monitor there child’s activity on the computer,Facebook did not conceive this child so why are they being held responsible for her actions?Where were the parents when she was taking pictures of herself and posting them on Facebook????just a thought
“An age check, like asking for a passport number, would be a simple measure for Facebook to implement.”
And even simpler for children to circumvent. They only need to find their parent’s or older sibling’s passport to render the age verification system useless.
Also, it seems to me that Facebook would *love* to be ordered to make their users upload official documents before opening an account. More information about their users means more information to sell to advertisers.
I doubt Facebook would enjoy being forced to make you upload scans. Too much “friction,” and I genuinely think they’ve become the sort of company that doesn’t want to be tasked with holding that sort of ID dynamite on everyone. (Your password’s picture page wouldn’t really give Facebook any more demographic data – except perhaps confirming your nationality – than most users provide willingly and accurately; the company would be forbidden from selling it on; and I am inclined to believe it wouldn’t even if it could.)
I am 40 years old and I don’t even have a passport number
Unless we give everyone some kind of personal ID, there is really no way to do this, especially when they would have to have personal information to use it. Plus with kids, law and sexual drive of hormones do go overboard. She is 11 and sexting? She must have some kind of drive and I doubt anything can be done. Kids will be kids, and will make stupid mistakes. Just remember when you started waking up horny…
I’m not support either, it’s a problem and there is no simple solution. It seems he was working with them, they just didn’t do their jobs. I would also think if it was going on, to his knowledge, he would have taken the computer or device away from them. It is also difficult to hear a 10 second informational about a trial (or lawsuit) and know all about what’s really the point of it all.
My foster daughter was sexually active before she came to our home and she was just 12. When she got out of hand, I just blocked the IP so she couldn’t log on. It didn’t stop her when she was out of the house.
I have the best idea….don’t let an 11 year old have a Facebook account!
And take the reins and discipline your daughter for continuing to create accounts, since it was never said in the article her father attempted to circumvent the problem by going to the root, his daughter (and even if he did, she wasn’t having it).