A court in southern Germany has dismissed a case brought against Facebook by a Syrian refugee who wanted the company to seek and delete posts falsely linking him to crimes committed by migrants.
Anas Modamani was one of several asylum-seekers who took a selfie with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the height of the refugee crisis in 2015. These started appearing in Facebook posts following high-profile crimes in Germany where migrants were identified as the perpetrators.
Modamani wanted an injunction forcing Facebook to actively identify and remove such posts, rather than wait for users to flag them.
German news agency dpa reports the court in Wuerzbuerg ruled Tuesday that Facebook hadn't made the slanderous posts its own and therefore couldn't be forced to abide by a cease and desist order.
Modamani arrived in Germany in 2015, along with tens of thousands of other refugees and migrants.
When Merkel visited his Berlin refugee shelter in September that year, he took two selfie images with her in jubilant scenes also captured by news photographers.
Since then, those images have been reposted in different contexts countless times, as right-wing fury has flared online against Merkel's liberal stance on refugees.
Users have cut and pasted Modamani's picture into "wanted" posters and on fake news reports, typically alleging that the refugee made famous by the Merkel selfie had turned out to be a terrorist.
Modamani, who is now taking German language courses and working in a fast food restaurant, said the hateful posts had had a damaging impact on his life.
Asked about the case, Facebook has told AFP it is "committed to meeting our obligations under German law in relation to content which is shared by people on our platform".
The company and other web giants pledged in December 2015 to examine and remove within 24 hours any hateful comments spreading online in Germany, in particular over the mass influx of 890,000 migrants that year.
Lawyer Chan-jo Jun last year launched legal action against Facebook in Munich, accusing its executives of condoning incitement of hate and violence.
Justice Minister Heiko Maas, who has been negotiating with social network chiefs, has also warned that Facebook and others could be punished if they do not comply with German law.
In January, in the wake of the US presidential election when Facebook was attacked for its role in the spread of fake news, the company announced it would introduce measures to take down "unambiguously wrong reports" being shared on its platform.
It said it would offer a simpler reporting process for users to flag suspected fake news, display warnings next to statements identified as false by independent fact-checking organizations, and cut off advertising revenue to fake news sites.
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