Highest EU Court Decides that Facebook Will Have to Remove Illegal User Comments

By Bill Toulas / October 3, 2019

As reported by Reuters, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has issued a ruling which will compel Facebook to remove user comments if they are deemed illegal and following notice of the fact by any European court. The case reached the highest EU court after it baffled an Austrian court that received a complaint by Eva Glawischning-Piesczek. The particular citizen is the former leader of Austrian’s Green Party, who complained about an insulting and defaming post referring to her, and which was accessible on Facebook.

After multiple rounds of consideration, the case was escalated to the ECJ, which has decided that Facebook will have to remove such posts, as long as their illegal nature is proven and confirmed by an EU court. As the court stated: “EU law does not preclude a hosting provider like Facebook from being ordered to remove identical and, in certain circumstances, equivalent comments previously declared to be illegal. In addition, EU law does not preclude such an injunction from producing effects worldwide, within the framework of the relevant international law.”

This decision will generate a ripple effect across all social media platforms, as the comments of people there remained vastly unregulated thus far. Facebook and other platforms have been warning about the damage to freedom of expression that such decisions may bring. However, given nature, social reach, and effects that Facebook comments may have on an individual, it is right to ask for the removal of content that is illegal. Facebook has made the following statement over the ruling:

“This judgment raises critical questions around freedom of expression and the role that internet companies should play in monitoring, interpreting and removing speech that might be illegal in any particular country. It undermines the longstanding principle that one country does not have the right to impose its laws on speech in 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.”

Contrary to last week’s ECJ decision that only concerned information that is accessed from within European countries, this order requires Facebook to remove the harming comments worldwide. Moreover, the decision cannot be appealed, so Facebook has just been rendered responsible for what the billions of its users are posting. With defamation, hate speech, privacy, and libel laws being vastly different among the various European countries, having one of them remove comments that would be acceptable by others is a questionable policy, but no matter the fact, it is what we’re going to see from now on.

Do you agree with ECJ’s decision, or do you find that it goes to extremes? Let us know where you stand in the comments down below, or on our socials, on Facebook and Twitter.

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