Facebook settles French 'censorship' case over vagina painting

Facebook recently paid a record $5 billion fine to US trade regulators (AFP Photo/LOIC VENANCE)

Paris (AFP) - Facebook has agreed to settle a years-long legal battle with a French teacher who sued after the social media giant shuttered his account when he posted a renowned 19th-century painting that features a woman's genitals, his lawyer said Thursday.

The dispute dates to 2011, when the teacher, Frederic Durand, ran afoul of Facebook's ban on nude images after posting a link that include a thumbnail image of "L'Origine du Monde" (The Origin of the World), an 1866 oil painting by the realist painter Gustave Courbet.

The painting is one of many treasures that adorn the Musee d'Orsay in Paris and Durand argued that the US tech giant was infringing on his freedom of expression.

He sought 20,000 euros ($22,100) in damages and initially won his case in a Paris court. A higher court overturned the ruling in March 2018, though it scolded Facebook for not initially explaining why the account was closed.

Durand had been preparing an appeal, but in a statement to AFP, his lawyer Stephane Cottineau said a deal had been reached for Facebook to make an unspecified donation to a French street art association called Le MUR (The WALL).

"This donation ends the legal battle between Mr Durand and Facebook," Cottineau said, without specifying why the street art association had been chosen, or which side had initiated the settlement talks.

Facebook declined to comment on the settlement when contacted by AFP.

Already in 2015, it had announced rule changes clarifying that posts depicting nudity in artwork were acceptable.

"L'Origine du Monde", one of several female nudes completed by Courbet, shocked the stiff bourgeois society of his time.

It is believed to have been commissioned by a Turkish diplomat in Paris who was forced to sell it after racking up huge debts because of his gambling addiction.