Story of Austrian teen suing parents over Facebook pictures debunked | Follow the Hashtag | DW | 19.09.2016
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Story of Austrian teen suing parents over Facebook pictures debunked

The story of an Austrian teenager who decided to sue her parents for posting pictures of her as a child without her consent turned out to be a fake. The outlet that originally posted the story is accused of carelessness.

After days of doing the rounds on local and international media, a story about an Austrian teenager that sued her parents for posting embarrassing baby pictures of her on Facebook is being widely denounced as a fake by several outlets, in Austria and abroad.

The original piece by the Austrian magazine Die Ganze Woche stated that Anna Maier - an altered name - an 18-year-old from the southern region of Corinthia, was taking her parents to court for posting embarrassing pictures of her as a child without her consent.

The magazine went on to give a detailed account of how the young woman had discovered the pictures upon joining the social network at the age of 14. She had pleaded with her parents to have 500 pictures removed after seeing they had been seen by the couple's 700 friends since they began posting them in 2009.

The article quoted the girl saying her parents "knew no shame" and that "every step of [her life] had been photographically recorded and subsequently made public."

Die Ganze Woche also originally quoted Michael Rami, an Austrian legal expert, whom the magazine described as the young woman’s lawyer, as saying Maier’s case stood a good chance of winning.

A few days after the initial publication of the story, several English-language outlets such as Austria's version of The Local, the British Daily Mail and The Independent had published similar articles, quoting Die Ganze Woche.

Inexistent case?

But doubts emerged when other news sources, such as Germany’s Berliner Morgenpost, contacted Maier's supposed lawyer Rami.

He told them that, though he had been in touch with Die Ganze Woche, he had only discussed how a hypothetical case like this could go in the Austrian courts, and that he was not the alleged victim's lawyer. The Austrian magazine has since deleted all mention of the lawyer's name.

Other journalists from Austrian local newspaper Kleine Zeitung contacted courts in the Corinthia region and discovered no trial of this nature was scheduled there, despite Die Ganze Woche's piece saying the case would be taken to court in November.

The Berliner Morgenpost and the Austrian version of The Local both say Die Ganze Woche's editorial team has refused to give further details concerning the teenager's story.

Yet, whether true or not, the supposed story did seem to highlight an issue that could have grave consequences for parents: Most articles discussing the supposed trial described France's strict personal privacy laws, saying that posting or distributing pictures of someone without their permission could result in a fine of up to 45,000 euros ($50,000).

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