Austrian Court's 'Hate Speech' Ruling Says Facebook Must Remove Perfectly Legal Posts All Over The World

from the one-court-to-rule-them-all dept

The European anti-hate speech machinery rolls on, with each successive demand for social media platform responsiveness being greeted by Facebook's "Thank you, may I have another?" Mark Zuckerberg informed the German chancellor in 2015 that Facebook's often-blundering proxy censorship team was all about removing hate speech. In appreciation for Facebook's efforts, German officials spent the following year trying to find a way to hold the company criminally liable for third party postings determined to be hate speech under German law.

Right next door, an Austrian court has just declared that Facebook is required to stamp out locally-defined hate speech... all over the globe.

Facebook must remove postings deemed as hate speech, an Austrian court has ruled, in a legal victory for campaigners who want to force social media companies to combat online "trolling".

The case - brought by Austria's Green party over insults to its leader - has international ramifications as the court ruled the postings must be deleted across the platform and not just in Austria, a point that had been left open in an initial ruling.

Not only will Facebook need to delete original posts and reposts, but it's apparently supposed to track down anything that quotes the offending posts verbatim and delete those as well. Simply blocking them in Austria isn't sufficient, though. Whatever one aggrieved Austrian political party thinks is hate speech has the possibility to affect all Facebook users, regardless of their location or level of free speech protections.

But that's not all Austria's Greens want: they want this ruling expanded to grant the Austrian government additional power over Facebook's moderation efforts.

The Greens hope to get the ruling strengthened further at Austria's highest court. They want the court to demand Facebook remove similar - not only identical - postings, and to make it identify holders of fake accounts.

These are dangerous powers to hand over to any government entity, but especially to recently-offended government officials with a half-dozen axes to grind. If this ruling holds up, Facebook -- and by extension, its users -- will be subservient to a foreign government that appears to like the sort of thing it sees in more authoritarian regimes where insults to government officials are met with harsh punishments. The worst thing about the ruling -- it contains many bad aspects -- is that it allows the Austrian government to determine what the rest of the world gets to see on Facebook.

Filed Under: austria, censorship, free speech, global censorship, hate speech
Companies: facebook

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 May 2017 @ 1:30pm

    Re: Perhaps there more behind the covers

    While social media sites do not organize people, they are the means by which people form organizations, and many of these span the boundaries of countries. This undermines the power of poltical parties and governments, and is increasing the focus of the battle over who controls society, the people themselves or the power seekers.

    The printing press initiated a long struggle, which undermined the power of the Church and th Nobility, by providing a means whereby those with a passion to say something could speak to many people. The phone speeded up one to one communication, and the computer gave the record keeping ability that enabled the growth of large corporations. Radio,Film and TV are just a more controlled version of the printing press. The impacts have not been as dramatic as the invention of the printing press, and has not arrived at its conclusion, a few mega-corporations ruling the world.

    The Internet is having the same sort of impact as the printing press, and is an opposing force to the centralization of power. In particular it allows many to many communication, allowing people to bypass bureaucratic structure, which were built to route messages from sender to the right unknown recipient in a system dominated by one to one communications. Just like the printing press changed the structure of society, so the Internet is changing the structure, and thin does impact existing power structure, because the chain of command, so beloved of bureaucracies is no longer needed,as individuals can put a request on social media, and it will be found by those who can respond to the request, and faster and more efficiently than a bureaucracy could do the same. I just hope that society adapts with less violence than that which followed the invention of the printing press.

    Finally, while the Internet allows a few hateful people to make a lot of noise, it also allows a lot of people to share and co-operate to build a better life for themselves and others. The press largely ignores this aspect of social media, as it is people quietly sharing ideas, and helping each other to develop skills, and even businesses. Don't let governments and large corporations kill the Internet, just because it threatens to reduce their power.

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