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. icon
    btr1701 (profile), 11 May 2017 @ 7:47pm

    Re: Re:

    > While Facebook certainly could leave Austria, If there is nothing in the EU
    > laws that would prevent it, I can't think of anything that would stop Austria
    > from saying "companies operating a platform in Austria cannot host content
    > illegal in Austria, including what we define as hate Speech" other than
    > countries should properly limit their laws from having such an effect.

    I don't understand what you're saying here. Are you suggesting that Austria has some kind of legal authority over anyone whose website is accessible in Austria?

    'Cause that's simply not the case. Unless a person or company has a physical presence in Austria (offices, servers, etc.), Austria has no legal authority over them whatsoever. So if Facebook shut down whatever offices it has there, they don't have to obey any Austrian laws or court rulings. The only recourse Austria would have would be to block access to Facebook by anyone inside Austria-- a move that would probably be *very* unpopular among the Austrian people.

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