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News anchor sues Facebook, Reddit after creepy photo appears in ads

Safe harbor laws may protect the sites from liability.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
September 8, 2019
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AP Photo/Tony Avelar

Internet giants are about to face another test of their liability for the content they host. The Verge has learned that Fox 29 News anchor Karen Hepp filed a lawsuit against Facebook, Giphy, Imgur, Reddit and porn outlet XNXX for allegedly violating her right of publicity and causing "irreparable harm" to her reputation after a convenience store security photo of her surfaced on those sites without her consent. It's not clear how the picture spread, but it turned up in a Facebook dating ad, another erectile dysfunction ad, Imgur pictures with sex-themed tags and a Reddit community for sexualized photos of older women.

Hepp said she didn't know that her photo had been taken, and didn't remember the name or location of the store. She also wasn't aware of how the photo might have made its way online.

The lawsuit calls on the sites to both take down the pictures and pay damages as compensation.

The chances of success aren't high. The Communications Decency Act's contentious Section 230 protects sites against liability for user-uploaded content, including advertisers. Hepp would have to either show that the sites knowingly hosted the photo or target the individuals who uploaded the picture. Most if not all of the sites might be absolved of responsibility. This does illustrate the legal headaches associated with fighting non-consensual photos, though. It's easy for images to spread online, but difficult to hold the perpetrators (or anyone else) to account.

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