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EU can order Facebook to remove ‘hate speech’ even if it’s outside Europe, top court says in landmark ruling

EU can order Facebook to remove ‘hate speech’ even if it’s outside Europe, top court says in landmark ruling
Facebook must comply with demands from EU nations to remove content deemed illegal, even if the material falls outside of their jurisdiction, a top court has ruled. The decision could undermine freedom of speech on the internet.

The European Court of Justice, the bloc’s top court, said on Thursday that an individual country can order Facebook to remove posts, photographs, and videos, and even restrict access to these materials to people all over the world.

According to the Luxembourg-based court, a national court of any EU country has the right to instruct the social media giant to take down posts considered defamatory in regions beyond its jurisdiction.

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The ruling upholds a non-binding opinion from an ECJ adviser in June, which Facebook argued “undermines the longstanding principle that one country should not have the right to limit free expression in other countries.”

The initial opinion came after an Austrian Green party politician sued Facebook, demanding that the platform delete defamatory content about her posted by a user, as well as duplicates of the same material. The complaint was referred to the ECJ by Austria’s High Court. The politician, Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek, insisted that Facebook prevent the content from being viewed worldwide.

This is the second major ECJ ruling in as many months concerning freedom of expression on the internet. In September, the court said that Google does not have to apply the EU’s “right to be forgotten” law globally. The directive requires the tech giant to remove search result listings to pages containing damaging or false information about a person. As a result, Google implemented a feature that prevents European users from being able to see delisted links.

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