THE EUROPEAN COURT OF JUSTICE (ECJ) has ruled that Facebook must delete content globally if its deemed defamatory in Europe.
The ruling, which is in stark contrast the ECJ's landmark 'right to be forgotten' decision last month, states that while Facebook is exempt from actively policing all of the content on its platform in Europe, the social network must remove user comments that European courts have deemed illegal.
"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," the ECJ said in a statement.
"In addition, EU law does not preclude such an injunction from producing effects worldwide, within the framework of the relevant international law."
Wednesday's ruling centres around a case brought by Austrian politician Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek. She wrote a letter to Facebook's European HQ in July 2016 asking that a post describing her as a 'lousy traitor of the people" and a member of a "fascist party" be deleted from the platform.
She argued that the "defamatory" comments, which were posted alongside an article Austrian news website oe24.at, could be seen on the original poster's page and other Facebook worldwide.
While the ECJ's decision is good news for Glawischnig-Piesczek, it will unlikely go down well at Facebook. The ruling could have broad implications for the company, and similar platforms, by placing more responsibility on them to manage and filter content.
Article 19 has also warned that the ruling could put freedom of speech at risk if Facebook isn't "transparent" and "accountable" about the removal of content.
Thomas Hughes, executive director of Article 19 said: "Compelling social media platforms like Facebook to automatically remove posts regardless of their context will infringe our right to free speech and restrict the information we see online. The judgment does not take into account the limitations of technology when it comes to automated filters.
"The ruling also means that a court in one EU member state will be able to order the removal of social media posts in other countries, even if they are not considered unlawful there. This would set a dangerous precedent where the courts of one country can control what Internet users in another country can see. This could be open to abuse, particularly by regimes with weak human rights records." µ
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