Categories
Consumer Rights Defamation

Defamatory or Illegal Content on Social Media Sites Can Be Removed Worldwide-ECJ Decision in Facebook Ireland Case

Do you think the social media sites do enough when it comes to the offensive material that is published on their platforms?

Do Facebook and Twitter, for example, act swiftly (or at all) to remove the hate speech and racist stuff that is on full view courtesy of various keyboard warriors hiding behind fake names and flags?

The Court of Justice of the European Union has just handed down an interesting decision in a case taken against Facebook Ireland. The case I am referring to is Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek v Facebook Ireland Limited Case C-18/18, Court of Justice of the European Union, with a decision delivered on 3 October 2019.

What the ECJ decided

The European Court of Justice has held that Facebook can be ordered by EU national courts to remove or block access to defamatory material-defamatory, that is, in the eyes of the national court of the EU member state.

There is a further significant outcome to this decision: a national court’s decision that material should be removed means it can be ordered to be removed in another country even if, in that other country, the material is not defamatory or illegal.

Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek v Facebook Ireland

Ms Glawsicnig-Piesczek is an Austrian politician who requested Facebook remove certain comments about her made by a user on Facebook. The Supreme Court in Austria referred the case to the European Court of Justice as it held the comments to be illegal and defamatory.

The consequences of the EU Court decision

  • Social media platforms can be ordered to remove or block access to identical information declared unlawful
  • They can be ordered to remove equivalent information deemed unlawful or defamatory
  • The decision applies on a worldwide basis-that is to say if it is deemed unlawful in Austria, for example, the comments cannot be published on Facebook UK or Facebook Ireland.

As a consequence of this decision the Supreme Court in Austria now has the power to decide on where and how the material is to be removed. This remains to be seen but the Austrian Supreme Court now has the authority to order Facebook to remove the comments on every Facebook platform worldwide and this was one of the questions referred by the Supreme Court in Austria.

Conclusion

This is good news for the user of the platform and gives an individual more power to ensure illegal or unlawful comments are not published anywhere and there is no getting around the order of a national court to remove illegal comments.

This is a significant increase in the power of the user of social media platforms and places far greater obligations on the social media companies such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc.

You can read the entire judgment in Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek v Facebook Ireland Limited here.

Read the press release of the Court of Justice of the European Union the 3rd October 2019.