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Facebooks says it’s sorry for censoring prehistoric nude figure

Facebook apologised on Thursday for censoring the prehistoric "Venus of Willendorf" figurine, considered a masterpiece of the paleolithic era.

Facebooks says it's sorry for censoring prehistoric nude figure
This undated picture released on February 28, 2018 shows the hands of a person opening a box containing the prehistoric "Venus of Willendorf" figurine at the Nature Historical Museum in Vienna, Austri

“Our advertising policies do not allow nudity or implied nudity but we have an exception for statues. Therefore, the ad with this image should have been approved,” a spokeswoman for Facebook told AFP.

“We apologise for the error and have let the advertiser know we are approving their ad,” she added.

The controversy began in December when Italian arts activist Laura Ghianda posted a picture of the artwork on the social networking site which went viral.

After it was censored she said that “this statue is not 'dangerously pornographic'. The war on human culture and modern intellectualism will not be tolerated.”

Her outrage was echoed by Vienna's Natural History Museum, where the statue is displayed.

“Let the Venus be naked! Since 29,500 years she shows herself as prehistoric fertility symbol without any clothes. Now Facebook censors it and upsets the community,” the museum said in a statement.

The 11-centimetre statue was discovered in the Austrian village of Willendorf in the early 20th Century.

It dates from the early stone age and is “the most popular and best-known prehistoric representation of a woman worldwide,” according to the museum's director general Christian Koeberl.

Facebook is regularly criticised over content which it bans or indeed content it allows to be published.

On March 15, a French court is due to pronounce on the decision by the California-based social networking site to close the Facebook account of someone who posted a photo of 19th century French painter Gustave Courbet's
“Origin of the World” painting, which depicts female genitalia.

PRIVACY

Austrian activist told he can’t bring class action case against Facebook

Austrian activist Max Schrems cannot bring a class action against Facebook for privacy breaches, although he is allowed to sue the US social media giant on a personal basis, the adviser to the EU's top court said on Tuesday.

Austrian activist told he can't bring class action case against Facebook
Max Schrems pictured at a courthouse in Vienna in 2015. Photo: AFP

Schrems had lodged cases in an Austrian court on behalf of seven other users in Austria, Germany and India against Facebook's Irish division for various alleged rights violations involving personal data.

Facebook had argued that people can only sue as individual consumers, not as groups — and moreover that Schrems's professional activities on his account meant he was no longer a private consumer in any case.

The advocate general to the European Court of Justice, Michal Bobek, said in a legal opinion that Schrems “may be able to rely on his consumer status in order to sue Facebook Ireland before the Austrian courts.”

“However, Mr Schrems cannot rely on his consumer status with respect to claims assigned to him by other consumers.”

The EU advocate general's legal opinions are often, but not always, followed by the ECJ's judges in their final decisions.

Austria's Supreme Court had referred the matter to the ECJ after Schrems's lawsuit was first thrown out and then restored by the country's courts.

'Emotional horror stories' 

Class actions in the EU would mean litigants could effectively shop around the bloc for the “more favourable courts”, lower costs or better legal aid, potentially overburdening some countries, the advocate general added.

The adviser also urged the EU to set up a better system for class action lawsuits in future.

Facebook welcomed the findings on the collective lawsuit.

“Today's opinion supports the decisions of two courts that Mr Schrems's claims cannot proceed as 'class action' on behalf of other consumers in Austrian courts,” a Facebook spokesman said in a statement to AFP.

Schrems said the findings were “unfortunately hard to understand,” saying that there had been other examples of joint cases that had been allowed to go ahead in the EU.

“It seems that Facebook has managed to score with their emotional horror stories, according to which collective actions by consumers are highly questionable,” he said in a statement.

“From a purely legal point of view, I have a hard time to follow the arguments by the advocate general.”

Schrems single-handedly brought down the EU's former “Safe Harbour” data sharing arrangement in 2015 after he sued Facebook in Ireland over the transfer of personal information by Facebook from Europe to the United States.

The ECJ ruled the 16-year-old deal was illegal after Schrems cited US snooping practices exposed by former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.

Schrems is now suing Ireland's data protection regulator over the issue in a separate case being considered by the ECJ.