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Refugee who took selfie with German chancellor has had enough of “fake news”

Joe Mullin
Anas Modamani outside court today in Wurzburg, Germany.
Getty Images
Anas Modamani, a Syrian refugee living in Germany, went to court against Facebook today. He argued that the online giant didn't do enough to stop his image from being associated with bogus news stories about terrorism.
In 2015, Modamani snapped a selfie with German chancellor Angela Merkel when she visited the shelter where he was living in Berlin. At the time, he was excited. The photo ended up on on television and on the front pages of newspapers. The publicity led to him being taken in by a German foster family, he told Deutsche Welle.
"For the first five months, I thought it was a good luck charm," Modamani told CNN. "But now I think it's bad luck."
After the 2016 Brussels bombing, Modamani's famous selfie began to be misused. Twitter and Facebook posts, and some so-called "fake news" outlets, said that the selfie showed Merkel standing with a terrorist. Some reports falsely identified him as Najim Laachraoui, one of the militants associated with that bombing.
Another post showed Merkel and Modamani Photoshopped with a picture of the truck used in a terrorist attack in the Berlin Christmas market.
Modamani took down his photo and requested that it be taken down elsewhere. But the photo is still popping up, along with false accusations of his involvement in terrorism. Now, Modamani has hired a lawyer to sue Facebook on his behalf. His lawyer, Chan-jo Jun, says that the social-networking company should use algorithms to automatically stop his client's image from being copied.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel poses for a selfie with Modamani on September 10, 2015 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel poses for a selfie with Modamani on September 10, 2015 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
"We are committed to meeting our obligations under German law," Facebook said in a statement to CNN. "We have already quickly disabled access to content that has been accurately reported to us by Modamani's legal representatives, so we do not believe that legal action here is necessary or that it is the most effective way to resolve the situation."
Nonetheless, a court hearing went ahead today. Jun argued that Facebook had the technical ability to stop the image's spread. Facebook lawyers responded that the company had already removed images that were flagged by users as defamatory, and it relies on user flagging to identify such material.
Facebook has been under fire recently for not doing more to stop the spread of "fake news."
"I want peace in my life," Modamani told reporters after the hearing, according to The New York Times. "Not everyone believes that. Many people hate me, but all I did was take a selfie with Ms. Merkel."
A ruling is expected the first week of March.

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