The ruling means social media platforms, like Facebook, now have the added responsibility of patrolling their own sites and networks for content ruled illegal.
Facebook can be ordered to police and remove illegal content worldwide, Europe’s top court said on Thursday, in a landmark ruling that rights advocates say could allow authoritarian regimes to silence critics.
The ruling came just a week after the same court told Google that it does not have to apply Europe’s “right to be forgotten” law globally, garnering praise from freedom of speech advocates as courts try and figure out just how much responsibility for content platforms should have.
Europe’s top court said on Thursday that an individual country can order Facebook to take down posts, photographs and videos and restrict global access to that material, in a ruling that has implications for how countries can expand content bans beyond their borders.
The European Court of Justice’s decision came after a former Austrian politician sought to have Facebook remove disparaging comments about her that had been posted on an individual’s personal page, as well as “equivalent” messages posted by others. The politician, Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek, a former leader of Austria’s Green Party, argued that Facebook needed to delete the material in the country and limit worldwide access.
American tech giants often don’t appreciate that free-speech is regulated against hate, racism, homophobia, harassment, nudity, etc… in many countries outside the USA. So this decision will be met with a lot of resistance in the USA. However, it will be welcomed in many other parts of the world.
At the same time, it’s difficult to see how European rules can be enforceable outside of their jurisdiction, unless, perhaps, when the offending content originated from within European jurisdiction.