Facebook is urging a federal judge to dismiss news anchor Karen Hepp's lawsuit alleging that the social networking platform infringed her right to control the use of her image by hosting dating ads with a photo of her.
In papers filed this week, Facebook argues that it didn't create the content, and therefore isn't legally responsible for it.
Hepp “did not allege that Facebook created or authored the advertisement, nor could she,” Facebook writes in a motion to dismiss filed with U.S. District Court Judge in John Younge in Philadelphia. “This glaring omission alone is fatal to Plaintiff’s claims against Facebook.”
The company adds that the ad it allegedly ran promotes the dating service FirstMet, and displays the word “sponsored,” which indicates “it is a third party’s ad.”
The lawsuit dates to last September, when Hepp alleged that a security photo of her taken at a New York City convenience store was being used in ads on Facebook for dating sites.
Hepp also sued other companies that allegedly displayed the photo -- including Imgur, Reddit, Giphy. She said the image was being displayed in a sexualized context on those other sites. On Imgur, for instance, the image allegedly appears under the heading “milf” -- a term her complaint defines as “a derogatory and degrading slang acronym that refers to a sexually attractive woman with young children.”
Her complaint claims that the companies violated Pennsylvania's “right of publicity” law, which allows people to control the commercial use of their names and likenesses.
Facebook argues it's immune from liability due to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which generally provides that web platforms aren't legally responsible for content uploaded by third parties.
The social networking platform additionally argues the lawsuit should be dismissed because Pennsylvania's “right of publicity” law only imposes liability on companies that know they are misappropriating someone's image.
“Plaintiff fails to allege that Facebook had actual knowledge that her photo was used in the advertisement without her consent,” the company writes.
Reddit and Giphy filed separate papers urging Younge to dismiss the lawsuits against them, arguing they are protected by the Communications Decency Act.
Reddit also contends that Hepp's petition was filed after the two-year statute of limitations had passed. The company argues that Hepp's complaint against it centers on a post that linked to an Imgur image uploaded on December 13, 2015 -- more than two years before Hepp brought suit.
Giphy, which operates a platform that allows people to search a database of images, adds that it lacks the kinds of connections with Pennsylvania that would justify a lawsuit in that locale.