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Berlin court denies parents access to dead teen daughter's Facebook account

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Berlin court denies parents access to dead teen daughter's Facebook account
File photo: Pexels.com.
13:56 CEST+02:00
After a teen girl died in a possible suicide, her parents were left searching for answers. But a Berlin court has now dashed their hopes of solving the mystery through social media.

A Berlin court on Wednesday backed online giant Facebook in its battle to reject a demand by the parents of a dead teenage girl for access to her account.

The 15-year-old was killed by a Berlin underground train in 2012 and her parents have been trying since to establish if she committed suicide by jumping onto the tracks.

They want access to her Facebook account to examine if she had ever mentioned a death wish in chats with friends or in any posts.

A prior Berlin court had ruled in favour of the parents' request, finding that the contents of the girl's Facebook account are part of her legacy.

The panel found that emails and Facebook entries were similar to letters and diaries, which "can be inherited regardless of their content".

But on Wednesday, an appeals court ruled in favour of the US online group, which argued that opening up the account would compromise the privacy of the teenager's contacts.

The court's decision still left open the question of whether Facebook accounts can be inherited. Instead the head judge said that what was crucial to the ruling was the issue of telecommunications privacy.

The Silicon Valley-based company welcomed the court decision on Wednesday.

"At the same time, we sympathize with the family and respect their wish," said a Facebook spokesman.

"We are therefore attempting to find a solution that helps the family and simultaneously protects third-party privacy that could possibly be impacted."

The parents could still appeal to the Federal Court of Justice.

Facebook has faced increased scrutiny in Germany, where authorities have proposed heavy fines if online social networks fail to wipe illegal hate speech from their sites.

SEE ALSO: Facebook condemns Germany's so-called 'hate speech' law

In a recent high-profile court case, the website clinched victory against a Syrian refugee whose selfie with Chancellor Angela Merkel made him the target of racist trolls.

The refugee had sought to get the online group to search out and delete defamatory posts, but the court ruled that it was unclear whether Facebook was able to conduct such searches without surmounting major technical hurdles.

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