Argentinian Court Orders Facebook To Remove Privacy Infringing Page

Facebook decision from ArgentinaA court in Formosa, a province in northeastern Argentina, ordered social media giant Facebook within 48 hours to remove from its website an anonymous page that allegedly invaded the privacy of a woman and defamed her business. B.C c Facebook Argentina s Medida Autosatisfactiva, Expte. Nº 810 (Juzg. de 1ra Ins. Nº 6 de Formosa Oct. 2012) (also see the decision on the court’s website here).

Coat of Arms of the Province of Formosa, Argentina.

THE ALLEGEDLY INFRINGING PAGE. Judge Graciela Lugo issued the order in a case in which a businesswoman alleged that an unknown person had created a Facebook page that violated her privacy and injured her business reputation. Without specifically describing the contents of the page, the court agreed with the claimant’s contention that the page attacked her honor and the image of the business she managed. At first, the page merely referenced the claimant without using her name. However, the page later referred to her by her name and her position as director of the business in question. The page listed more than 1200 “friends,” some of whom worked in the claimant’s business and notified her of the page.

PROTECTION OF THE RIGHT OF PRIVACY UNDER ARGENTINIAN LAW. The court observed that provisions of several human rights instruments to which Argentina is a party — Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 11 of the American Convention on Human Rights, and Article V of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man— recognize the right of all persons to be free from unlawful interference with their privacy and from unlawful attacks on their honur and reputation. These human rights guarantees are incorporated into the law of Argentina by virtue of Article 75 ¶ 22 of Argentina’s National Constitution.

The court quoted with approval scholarly commentary stating that under the law of Argentina, everyone has “the right to control information about certain aspects of [his or her] life, including facts which are true but which the individual has kept within his or her own knowledge or that of a small group of persons.” Therefore, a person may “oppose any investigation into [his or her] private life by third parties and the dissemination of data that, by their nature, are intended to be preserved from public curiosity.”

THE COURT’S RULING. In ordering Facebook the remove the offending page, the court wrote that although “freedom of expression is a constitutionally recognized right, this does not mean that a purported exercise of that right can overwhelm people’s rights that are also recognized and protected by the Constitution.”

NOTE: In her reasoning, Judge Lugo relied in part on a July 2012 decision of a court in the city of Rosario, Santa Fe, Argentina, which ordered Facebook to close an anonymous account whose page featured images and commentaries that the court found invasive of the privacy of their subjects. See B. F. y Otros c/ Facebook Arg. SRL. s/ Medida Autosatisfactiva (Juzgado de Primera Instancia en lo Civil y Comercial de la 12º Nominación de Rosario Jul. 13, 2012).

by Shawn N. Sullivan, Oct. 29, 2012.

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