Aug 2
Facebook and a French teacher settled their years-long lawsuit over Gustave Courbet’s “L’Origine du monde.”
Visitors to the Musée d’Orsay look at Gustave Courbet’s L’Origine du Monde. Photo by Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images

Visitors to the Musée d’Orsay look at Gustave Courbet’s L’Origine du Monde. Photo by Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images

An eight-year legal dispute between Facebook and a French teacher over Gustave Courbet’s infamous painting L’Origine du monde (1866) is finally over. Frédéric Durand, who posted an image of the realistic painting of a woman’s genitals to his Facebook profile in February 2011, only to have his account abruptly deactivated and disabled Gus, has reached an agreement with the social network to resolve his lawsuit amicably. As part of the settlement, the teacher and Facebook will each donate unspecified sums to Le M.U.R., a nonprofit promoting street art in Paris. The resolution, first reported by the AFP, brings an end to a protracted legal battle.

Durand sued Facebook shortly after the incident in 2011, but the social network countered that the case could not be tried in France because, per the terms and conditions users agree to when creating an account, it can only be tried in California, where the company is headquartered. In 2016, a French court of appeals ruled this argument was “unfair,” paving the way for a court trial. In 2018, Durand’s lawsuit was dismissed by a French court, which ruled he had failed to “demonstrate with the necessary rigor that the deactivation [. . .] was due to the posting of the painting.” Durand appealed that decision, and this week’s settlement brought an end to that appeal.

Facebook has routinely been accused of censorship for removing images of more-or-less realistic artworks depicting nudity, even though its “Community Standards” state that it will “allow photographs of paintings, sculptures, and other art that depicts nude figures.” Recently, photographer Spencer Tunick and other artists launched a campaign in protest of Facebook’s policy banning “female nipples,” which prompted the company to reconsider its nudity guidelines.

Facebook relies on algorithms and human content moderators to evaluate images posted to the platform. Many of its human moderators are employed by subcontractors and, according to an NPR report, each moderator makes a decision about a flagged piece of content on Facebook roughly every 10 seconds.