The European Court of Justice, wielding the highest jurisdiction in the European Union, ruled Wednesday Facebook must delete content globally if it is determined by the court to be defamatory.
Facebook is not required to monitor all content on its platform in Europe, the court ruled, but will now be required to remove content deemed offensive by users around the world if it is determined to be outlawed in Europe.
The decision came after Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek, a former chairperson for the Green Party in Austria, alleged a Facebook user defamed her in 2016.
According to court filings, a private citizen blasted Glawischnig-Piesczek on the social media platform, calling her a “corrupt oaf” and posted an article about the Austrian politician which repudiates her as “lousy traitor of the people” and a member of a “fascist party,” among other names.
Glawischnig-Piesczek penned a letter to Facebook’s European headquarters, demanding Facebook delete the post, but Facebook declined. Glawischnig-Piesczek then filed a lawsuit against the social media company and Austria’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of the politician, deeming the language used by the private citizen as defamatory. It was unclear, however, after the ruling whether the verdict determines if Facebook would be forced to apply the restriction on its platform beyond the borders of the 28-nation European Union, delegating the case to the European Court of Justice to determine the scope of the new precedent.
Facebook contended removing “defamatory” posts violates free speech rights in other countries.
“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,” the company said in a statement.
“It undermines the longstanding 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.”
Yet, its argument did not resonate with the European court, which also mandated Facebook remove all “identical” content that may be considered defamatory.
While Facebook attempted to circumvent the mandate to restrict its posts citing free speech laws, the tech company is brazenly infringing on free speech in the United States in its effort to ban so-called “hate speech.”
The company is currently facing a $3 billion dollar defamation lawsuit filed by Laura Loomer after the tech giant permanently suspended her account and labeled the pro-Trump investigative journalist as a “dangerous individual.”
In an effort to dismiss a $3 billion defamation lawsuit waged by Loomer, Facebook made a groundbreaking admission in court filings last month, contending the company is a “publisher.”
Yet, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has argued, under oath, in congressional testimony that his tech company is a “platform” and is therefore exempt from prosecution of illegal activity under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
Tech “platforms” are not liable for content created by its user under the law, while “publishers” are in prosecutorial jeopardy if their writers defame someone. Facebook’s admission of being a publisher amid the legal battle may nullify its Section 230 protections.
While Facebook arbitrarily applies its hate speech policy, Verge reporter Casey Newton published leaked audio from a Facebook Q&A discussion between Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and employees.
In the audio recorded in July, Zuckerberg defines how his company enforces hate speech policy, explaining that the guidelines are “fraught” but “a principled approach for having a global framework that is actually enforceable around the world.”
“So one is, gender is a protected category,” Zuckerberg said. “So substitute in your mind while you’re thinking through this, what if this were ‘Muslims are trash,’ right? You would not want that on the service.”
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