A European Union court has issued a landmark ruling stating that a country can order Facebook to remove posts that are defamatory—and that Facebook must comply with the removal order globally, reports the New York Times.
The case was brought by an Austrian politician who wanted Facebook to remove posts disparaging her, which were posted by some of its users. Facebook denied to, saying that if a single country could order it to remove posts on its platform, it would allow for other countries to stifle free speech outside of their own borders.
But the court ended up siding with the politician and supporters who countered that defamation laws haven’t been enforced appropriately due to the borderless nature of the internet. The court also found that platforms like Facebook weren’t doing enough to combat internet trolls and hate speech that spread on its platform.
It is important to note that the court did not find Facebook liable for the defamatory comments posted on its platform. However, it found that Facebook “did not act expeditiously to remove or to disable access to that information.” For its part, Facebook criticized 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 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.
However, the court’s decision is binding and cannot be appealed.