How a picture of a vagina posted on Facebook resulted in a landmark legal ruling


A 149 year old painting of a vagina is at the centre of groundbreaking legal ruling in France regarding censorship on the social networking site Facebook.

Last week, the High Court in Paris set a legal precedent by ruling that California based Facebook can be taken to court in France.

This followed the case of a French man whose Facebook account was suspended because he posted an image of a famous painting of a woman’s vagina.

The painting, I’Origine du Monde, which is by Gustave Courbet, dates back to 1866 and is currently on display at the Musée d’Orsay.

The image was deemed to be inappropriate for the social network site and was removed.

I’Origine du Monde

The I’Origine du Monde pictured centre. (Pic: Wikipedia)

According to France 24, the man, whose name has not been disclosed for legal reasons, claimed that in closing down his Facebook profile, his right to freedom of expression had been compromised due to the fact that Facebook mistook the picture for poronography rather than art.

Earlier this year, Facebook’s legal team argued that courts in France had no jurisdiction in the case, given that the man in question had already agreed to the site’s terms of use, which stipulates that any legal dispute with Facebook can only be heard in courts in California.

However, the High Court in Paris disagreed and ruled that the case can be heard in a French court, calling the clause in Facebook’s terms “abusive”.

The landmark ruling, which could set an important precedent for Facebook in other countries around the world, was described as a “first victory won by David against Goliath”, by Stephane Cottineau, the French man’s lawyer.

“This decision will create jurisprudence for other social media and other internet giants who use their being headquartered abroad, mainly in the United States, to attempt to evade French law,” Mr Cottineau added.

Facebook has said that it is aware of the ruling and is considering what to do in terms of a response.

Source: France 24 with AFP




  1. Pingback: How a picture of a vagina posted on Facebook resulted a landmark legal ruling

  2. Daniel Ingalls on

    Should of done some creative hair sculpture work be for displaying it on
    the web. modern obscene viewer prefer neatness over ala-naturolala

  3. johnmelvin on

    Zuckerberg for being so young displays the Puritanical mentality of the USA. It seems to me, if an image is posted in a regarded Museum of Art, then it is permissible on Facebook. Any concerns about children viewing it falls back on the ‘friends’ of whoever posted it.

  4. When the French citizen accepted the terms that Facebook offered, was he forced to? Normally it is totally voluntary on the behalf of the user. Will Facebook now have to ask all French users to clarify their membership , and to verify that they accept the terms and conditions that Facebook offer, otherwise their accounts will be closed? I wonder if FB will have the balls to tell the French courts to go F*ck themselves, self important pr*cks. NO body is forcing people to use FB. Freedom works both ways, if the French don’t like the terms, don’t use FB.

  5. It’s unlikely that the picture was of a “vagina.” Most likely it was the labia.

  6. Steve Abbott on

    I agree with FB banning it. I have no problem with it myself, but my FB page is viewed by my young nephews and nieces. There’s no reason for them to see that.

  7. Tony Baker on

    The French… It only “creates jurisprudence” and legal precedent in other countries if other countries observe it as such. The terms were explicit, and were accepted. End of story, no matter what some self-important French judges have to say about it. Facebook should just ignore the whole thing and absent themselves from any French legal proceedings. If that results in Facebook being banned in France, why not see if French citizens are actually OK with that? I’ll just bet they won’t be…

  8. Maestro Thaivisa on

    From Facebook’s Community Standards, undated but apparently updated within the last few days: “We also allow photographs of paintings, sculptures, and other art that depicts nude figures.”
    In other words, the painting I’Origine du Monde by Gustave Courbet is no longer banned.