Syrian in Merkel selfie sues Facebook over 'fake news'

Syrian in Merkel selfie sues Facebook over 'fake news'
A Syrian refugee who posed for a selfie with Angela Merkel accuses the social networking site of failing to take action against posts falsely linking him to terrorism.
2 min read
13 Jan, 2017
The 19-year-old has had enough of the defamatory slurs [Getty]
A Syrian refugee famous for taking a selfie with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2015 is suing Facebook for failing to remove posts falsely linking him to criminal activity and terrorism.

Anas Modamani, from the Damascus suburb of Darayya, said that his pictures were used in fake news posts on Facebook, claiming he had set fire to a homeless man.

The defamatory post was shared more than 500 times on the social networking site.

Modamani's picture was also used in March to compare his likeness to one of the Brussels bombers, with some sites writing: "Did Merkel take a selfie with a terrorist?"

Similar postings with Modamani's pictures proliferated after an attempted suicide bombing in Ansbach, Germany, in July.

Facebook's community standards said the rules did not warrant removing the posts.

Modamani's lawyer, Chan-jo Jun, said the 19-year-old has had enough of the defamatory slurs.

"Anas Modamani is fighting back based on his personal rights so that no person is able to slander him or accuse him of crimes," Jun said.

Facebook was summoned to a district court in the southern German city of Würzburg.

The lawsuit could prove to be a break-through case as the German administration looks to hold internet sites accountable over contents published on their platforms.

Modamani took a photograph with Merkel in September 2015, during the chancellor's visit to a refugee shelter in Berlin.

The selfie, as well as pictures of him taking it, turned into defining images of the German response to the refugee crisis.

They have since been used to signify Merkel's open-door policy for refugees.

"Every time something happens that has to do with refugees, [Modamani] is wheeled out as an icon, as Merkel's model refugee, and smeared with all sorts of criminal acts," Jun said.

The case comes as Germany mulls legislation to stop the spread of fake news ahead of 2017's general elections.