Syrian refugee slaps Facebook with "fake news" lawsuit

After his selfie with Angela Merkel was attached to false accusations of terrorism and attempted murder...

The phenomenon of "fake news" continues to dog Facebook, with the social media giant now being hit with a lawsuit due to allegations made about a Syrian migrant on its social network.

Anas Modamani had posed for a photo with German chancellor Angela Merkel (above) in September 2015 and posted the picture online. It was subsequently used alongside false accusations that he was involved in terrorist attacks in Brussels.

Modamani had been living in Germany for just one month after fleeing Darayya in Syria and travelling through Turkey, Greece and Serbia when Merkel visited the Berlin shelter in which he was living.

The resulting image was then used to criticise Merkel, with messages such as "you reap what you show" being added to collages of the selfie and images of a different man involved in terrorist activity who many people were fooled into believing was Modamani.

Speaking to the BBC, the now-19-year-old said:

"I was first linked to attacks when my picture was circulated as being one of the Brussels attackers due to perceived resemblances between us.

"When the claims started being circulated on social media, I was in Munich visiting friends. Some friends advised that I stay at home and avoid going out in public, which I did. Others encouraged me to go to the police and report what was being said about me. But I kind of just hoped it would go away on its own."

The false accusations rose again, however, following the attack on a Christmas market and attempted murder of a homeless man in Berlin.

He continued:

"At that time, I had disabled my Facebook account, but the lady who is hosting me in Germany brought them to my attention."

"I was fed up with this happening again, so we discussed getting a lawyer involved."

Modamani's lawyer, Chan-jo Jun, took on the case, with Facebook now being sued for two different false stories it hosted.

He told the BBC:

"Facebook is doing a very poor job with fake news. But it is especially doing a poor job with illegal fake news.
"Not all fake news is illegal, but where it amounts to slander, as I believe this does, then it should be taken down."

Facebook has responded:

"We received a takedown request from Mr Jun alleging that a specific item of content on our platform violates Mr Modamani's right of personality.

"Access to that reported content was quickly disabled, so we do not believe there is any basis for him to seek an injunction."

The case will reach a Wurzburg court on February 6th.