This Man Claims Facebook Blocked His Account for Posting a World-Famous Painting, Now He's Suing

© Francois Mori/AP/REX/Shutterstock
© Francois Mori/AP/REX/Shutterstock
Photo of India Irving
Social Media Editor6 February 2018

It is mostly understandable that Facebook and other social networks ban pornographic imagery from their sites, but is the line crossed when they flag iconic works of art as porn? What if they suspend someone’s account just because they posted one such painting?

Such is the case with Parisian teacher Frédéric Durand-Baïssas, whose Facebook account was suspended in 2011 just hours after he posted an image of French realist master Gustave Courbet’s 1866 oil painting, L’Origine du Monde (The Origin of the World). The painting in question, which hangs in Paris’s Musée d’Orsay, depicts female genitalia quite graphically, but Durand-Baïssas argues that the painting is a cherished work of art.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Francois Mori/AP/REX/Shutterstock (6688978c) A visitor takes a picture with a phone of Gustave Courbet's 1866 "The Origin of the World," painting which depicts female genitalia at Musee d'Orsay museum, in Paris, France, . Facebook lost a crucial legal battle Friday as a Paris court ruled the social network can be sued in France over its decision to remove the account of a French user who posted a photo of Courbet's famous 19th-century nude painting France Facebook, Paris, France

Durand-Baïssas was offended and inconvenienced by the suspension and is now suing Facebook, asking not only for his account to be reactivated, but also for an explanation from the company as to why the account was closed in the first place and a whopping €20,000 (£17,700) in damages.

Since the incident, Facebook has changed its user policy to allow nudity in art. However, such posts are often still blocked to this day and there is no real explanation from the social network as to why.

The lawsuit will take place in French court despite Facebook attempting to have the case heard on its home turf in California. Experts say a decision in Durand-Baïssas’ favour could set a groundbreaking legal precedent.

‘This is a case of free speech and censorship on a social network,’ Durand-Baïssas said of his situation in February 2016. ‘If [Facebook] can’t see the difference between an artistic masterpiece and a pornographic image, we in France [can].’

Time will soon tell if the art lover is right and what repercussions this will have on all of us as Facebook users.