Irish Daily Mail

Facebook pays father after girl of 11 targeted

- By Emily Kent Smith

THE father of an 11-year-old girl has sued Facebook for failing to enforce policies on age restrictio­ns after she was exposed to online predators.

The man, whose daughter is from the North, secured an undisclose­d payout from the social networking site.

A trial had been due to begin last Monday. However, it is understood that Facebook settled the case out of court.

A FATHER has sued Facebook for failing to enforce its age restrictio­n policy after he claims his daughter was exposed to online sexual predators at the age of 11.

The man, who has remained anonymous, secured an undisclose­d payout from the social networking website.

A trial had been due to begin last Monday after four years of legal wrangles. It is understood that Facebook, which last year reported profits of £1.9billion. settled out of court.

His daughter, from the North, who is only referred to as GS in legal documents uploaded sexual pictures of herself online and used a series of Facebook accounts to contact men. The accounts were later taken down by the social network.

But the family’s lawyers claimed Facebook had a ‘duty of care’ towards the girl and was ‘negligent’ because it has no system in place to stop users from misreprese­nting their ages.

Court documents obtained by the Sunday Times said: ‘By registerin­g an account and using Facebook the child might be exposing herself to sexual predators or other grave risks affecting her emotional and physical health.’

They added: ‘[Facebook] are obviously aware that children who should not be using Facebook are doing so by using the simple device of misreprese­nting their age.’

Last night child welfare campaigner­s warned of the perils of sexual predators targeting children online and called for social networking websites to enforce their age restric- tions. A spokesman for the UK’s National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children said: ‘Social networks have a duty to help protect young users from those who wish them harm and they need to take those responsibi­lities seriously; age verificati­on is a key part of that.

‘Although users of Facebook should be over 13 we know there are many children under that age with pro- files. Sexual offenders may trawl social networking sites looking for vulnerable children, and lie about who they are to gain their trust.’

On its help pages, Facebook urges users to report anyone aged under 13 using the site and shows parents how to delete their child’s account, but there are no measures in place to enforce the age restrictio­n. The father’s solicitor, Hilary Carmichael, said: ‘My own personal view is that Facebook isn’t suitable for under-18s, but the company isn’t even able to uphold its own policy of keeping under-13s out. An age check, like asking for a passport number, would be a simple measure for Facebook to implement.’

A survey by website knowthenet. com revealed that 52 per cent of eight- to 16- year- olds admitted ignoring Facebook’s age policy when signing up. By the age of ten, 59 per cent of children have used a social networking site, the survey found.

Yesterday a spokesman for Facebook said: ‘People have to be 13 to sign up. When we become aware that someone is under 13 and they have therefore lied about their age, we remove their account.’

‘An age check would be simple’

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