Hate Speech Targeted: Facebook Dealt Legal Blow in Landmark EU Court Case

Written by | Tuesday, October 15th, 2019

Facebook on Wednesday (2 October) suffered a major blow by the ruling of the EU’s top court, which concluded that national courts in Europe can order online platforms to remove defamatory content worldwide. The decision is widely seen as a victory for EU regulators, who want US tech giants to meet tightened European standards over offensive content in general and hate speech in particular. In a closely watched ruling, the European Court of Justice said EU law “does not preclude” national courts from ordering “the removal of information or to block access worldwide.”
In contrast, last week saw another US tech giant score a victor when the same EU top court ruled that Google was not legally compelled to apply the EU’s strict “right to be forgotten” rules globally. This latest case was brought originally to an Austrian court by Eva Glawischnig from the Green Party, who demanded the removal of Facebook posts that defamed her, as the judges found, while these could be seen by users of the social network around the world. After being referred to the EU’s top court for an opinion and the judgment, which cannot be appealed, this case will now be used as a reference Europe-wide.
The Greens had also demanded Facebook to provide information to determine the identity of people in fictitious accounts that often posted the most malicious contents, such as one that called Glawischnig a “corrupt” person. This landmark decision thus forces Facebook and similar platforms such as Twitter, to make more effort to monitor their content and delete it if found to be offensive or hateful. Google’s YouTube, for example, has already agreed to voluntarily remove hateful or dangerous content, including those “linked to terrorism”, across Europe within 24 hours. However, those tech giants and their social media that fail to comply with orders from European authorities will likely face tougher Europe-wide measures including higher fines.

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