France: Facebook faces lawsuit following the suicide of a bullied teenager

France: Facebook faces lawsuit following the suicide of a bullied teenager
Credit: Belga

The family of a 13-year-old French girl who committed suicide after being bullied at school announced on Thursday that it had lodged a complaint against Facebook.

“If everyone had done their job to protect Lindsay, she would be alive,” the family’s lawyer, Pierre Debuisson, said at a press conference. He then read out a letter written by the teenager several months before her suicide, which occurred in mid-May in northern France.

“If you’re reading this letter, then I’m probably gone (…) I couldn’t take the insults day and night, the mockery, the threats (…) despite everything that’s happened they will always want to hurt me,” the schoolgirl wrote.

“If we’d had help, if we’d had support, I’m sure my daughter would be with us now,” the girl’s mother, Betty, said at the press conference. “I tried everything, I did everything, we were not helped, we were let go, completely, no support, not before, not during, not after.”

The judicial investigation into Lindsay’s death has resulted in four minors being charged with “bullying leading to suicide” and one adult being charged with “death threats.”

Facebook was “completely at fault” for allowing “hate speech” to proliferate, even after the death of the teenager, who was attending school in Vendin-le-Vieil, northern France, attorney Debuisson noted.

“Lindsay’s death was not enough, since after Lindsay’s death, insults (…) continued to circulate on social networks, ” said the lawyer, pointing to posts on Instagram, owned by Facebook, rejoicing in the teenager’s suicide.

According to the lawyer, the US group had violated its obligation to moderate and control content published on its platforms.

Lindsay’s family also announced on Thursday that they had filed a complaint against investigators and education authorities for their alleged failure in the case.

Education Minister Pap Ndiaye referred on Thursday  to “a collective failure”.

“Obviously, this is a collective failure, Lindsay’s death, her suicide, it is a tragedy for her relatives, for the national education system and for the country, as is the suicide of any young person,” the minister said.

The school authorities last week announced the opening of an administrative enquiry, conceding that its services could have “gone further in monitoring” the young girl.

The “family needs answers, they need to be given them,” government spokesman Olivier Véran said on Thursday while on a trip to the north of France. He stressed “parental responsibility” in the fight against harassment.

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