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EU Court Rules that Facebook can be Forced to Remove Content Internationally

European Union’s top court, Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that judges from lower court could order Facebook to remove illegal comments from its platform. The decision includes ban on content not only in individual countries but rather internationally.

The decision comes after an Austrian politician, Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek, requested an order that would force Facebook to remove comments that were “harmful to her reputation.” Eva argued that Facebook should remove the comments and limit access to them worldwide. The court ruled against Facebook, dealing a heavy blow on tech companies as lawmakers and platforms continue to discuss how to regulate online speech.

The court said in a statement, “EU law does not preclude a host 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.”

In its ruling, the European Court of Justice affirms that companies like Facebook and Twitter are not liable for the content posted on their platforms, but that exemption does not prohibit the courts from ordering the companies to take down illegal content.

Facebook opposed the ruling stating, “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.”