The European Union’s top court has ruled against Facebook in a landmark case over whether the social media giant should be forced to remove posts that are flagged as hateful content—and it has the power to impact the posts you see in your newsfeed every day.
Facebook could soon be forced to remove posts anywhere in the world, so that users in the European Union won’t be subjected to hateful content. This, according to the latest ruling from the EU’s top court. It says individual countries can force Facebook to remove posts and comments, photos, videos and even restrict global access to material—and the rules apply worldwide.
While the laws governing defamation and privacy are not the same in every country, the European Court of Justice claims that the rights of citizens in Europe to be protected from hateful content online trumps regulations in all other countries.
The ruling states that “EU law does not preclude a host provider such as Facebook from being ordered to remove identical and, in certain circumstances, equivalent comments previously declared to be illegal.”
This decision comes in response to a lawsuit filed by a former politician in Austria who sued Facebook in an effort to remove comments that she said damaged her reputation.
The lawsuit called on Facebook to delete not only those comments, but any similar comments that were posted, even though they were done so on the individual pages of private citizens.
The European Union’s ruling states that while Facebook is not liable for the comments, it can still be forced to remove them, and to limit the access to similar posts, if a court rules that the content is illegal.
The decision has drawn sharp criticism from privacy experts who note the vast differences in regulations in countries around the world, especially when comparing laws governing online speech in the EU to the United States.
In a statement responding to the ruling, Facebook argued that the “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 social media giant went on to note that the decision also puts a massive burden on internet companies “to proactively monitor content and then interpret if it is ‘equivalent’ to content that has been found to be illegal.”
Now it remains to be seen how this decision will be treated moving forward, but there are concerns that giving one country the power to decide what internet users can say around the world will set a dangerous precedent.