In brief: A Philadelphia news anchor has sued Facebook, Giphy, Imgur, Reddit, and porn outlet XNXX after a convenience store photo of her started appearing in dating and erectile dysfunction ads.
The question of whether websites should be held liable for the content they host has once again reared its head. In this instance, Fox 29 News’ Karen Hepp has filed a suit claiming the platforms violated her rights of publicity and damaged her reputation by showing the picture.
Hepp says she discovered the photo had surfaced online two years ago. It was used in “a Facebook ad promising meetups with ‘single women,’ an unspecified ad for erectile dysfunction [on XNXX], a Reddit forum for sexualized pictures of older women [r/OBSF], and the ‘MILF’ tag on Imgur,” writes The Verge.
The suit claims that the version uploaded to Giphy had been modified, stating that “a video appears in the background of a man—who is hiding behind a glass commercial freezer door and masturbating—to what would appear, from his perspective, to be the backside of Plaintiff.”
Hepp says she didn’t realize the photo had been taken and doesn’t remember the name or location of the store, though the suit narrows it down to somewhere in New York. How it ended up online is also unknown.
The suit demands the sites remove the photos immediately and seeks compensatory damages of more than $10 million, but section 230 of the Communications Decency Act gives websites a large degree of liability protection against user-generated content, which includes ads. Hepp would likely find it easier to sue the person who posted the images.
According to Hepp’s legal team, she “maintains an exclusive entitlement to control the commercial value of her name and/or likeness and to prevent others from exploiting it without permission.”