EU Court Rules Facebook Must Remove “Offensive” Content Worldwide

  • “Today’s ruling essentially allows one country or region to decide what internet users around the world can say and what information they can access.”
  • Facebook responded that the judgment "undermines the long-standing principle that one country does not have the right to impose its laws on speech on another country."
  • Plaintiff Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek called the ruling an historic victory against online hate speech.

The European Union’s highest court has ordered Facebook to remove offensive remarks. The EU court has tightened its rules for internet service providers, including Facebook. According to EU regulations, social media groups are not responsible for what users publish unless they are aware that the content of the post is illegal. The same rules say that social media groups as a whole have no responsibility for monitoring the content of stored information and are not required to search for it.

Facebook, Inc. is an American online social media and social networking service company based in Menlo Park, California. It was founded by Mark Zuckerberg, along with fellow Harvard College students and roommates Eduardo Saverin, Andrew McCollum, Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes. It is considered one of the Big Four technology companies along with Amazon, Apple, and Google.

Victoria de Posson, senior manager in Europe at the Computer & Communications Industry Assn. said, “today’s ruling essentially allows one country or region to decide what internet users around the world can say and what information they can access.” EU court prosecutors say the law is not in conflict with the national laws of the member states. Under international law, and in some cases even worldwide, one can demand the removal of illegal content on Facebook.

“What might be considered defamatory comments about a politician in one country will likely be considered constitutional free speech in another. Few hosting platforms, especially startups, will have the resources to implement elaborate monitoring systems,” de Posson said. The European Court has also imposed restrictions on the removal or locking of user posts. Social media service providers can only search for and lock content if they have advanced technical capabilities and a search engine program capable of detecting illegal content.

Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek is an Austrian politician of the Austrian Green Party, and its federal spokeswoman from 2008 until 2017. She is internationally known for suing Facebook for defamation in order to impose global censorship on social media companies through the European judiciary system.

Facebook responded by saying the judgment “undermines the long-standing principle that one country does not have the right to impose its laws on speech on another country. It also opens the door to obligations being imposed on internet companies to proactively monitor content and then interpret if it is ‘equivalent’ to content that has been found to be illegal.”

The reason for the European Court’s ruling is the offensive posts that are posted on social media, including Facebook. The story first began with numerous insults to a former Austrian Green Party politician, Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek, on Facebook, including calling her a “dirty traitor.” She ordered Facebook not only to remove the post, via the Austrian Supreme Court, but also to remove any other offensive content.

The Austrian Supreme Court also asked the EU court to examine whether the ruling complies with current rules on e-mails. The result is a new set of rules that obliges Facebook to remove offensive content. Ms. Glawischnig-Piesczek called the European Court ruling a historic victory for preserving the face of the internet giant Facebook and said it was serious protection of all those who were offended on social media.

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Joyce Davis

My history goes back to 2002 and I  worked as a reporter, interviewer, news editor, copy editor, managing editor, newsletter founder, almanac profiler, and news radio broadcaster.


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