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Austrian court gives Facebook impossible order to remove “defamatory” “hate speech” globally

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The Supreme Court of Austria has denied Facebook’s appeal on a “hate speech” removal case, ruling that the social media company should remove all defamatory comments originating from a post made about a local politician – and not just in the country, but globally.

The court’s decision follows a ruling by the EU’s Court of Justice (CJEU) that said social platforms can be forced to take down content on a global scale.

Eva Glawischnig, a member of the Green Party, sued Facebook in 2016 for allowing a defamatory post. Facebook had denied her request to remove the post, which called her a “corrupt tramp,” “lousy traitor,” and a member of the “fascist party.”

Glawischnig won the lawsuit and Facebook was forced to remove the post and equivalent postings locally.

The next year she sued the platform again so that it would remove similar postings globally.

The Austrian Supreme Court referred the case to the CJEU. In 2019, the CJEU ruled that social media platforms could be ordered to remove illegal content globally, without violating the EU laws which protect social media companies from a “general content monitoring obligation.”

In its decision, the Austrian Supreme Court followed the CJEU’s ruling. Therefore, Facebook will have to remove posting “equivalent” or “identical” to the original defamatory post made against Glawischnig across the whole world.

The court’s decision raises concerns about free speech. After the CJEU’s ruling last year Facebook argued that it “opens the door to obligations being imposed on internet companies to proactively monitor content and then interpret if it is “equivalent” to the content that has been found to be illegal.”

Facebook also argued that for it to work, courts had to clearly define the meaning of “identical” and “equivalent.”

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