Facebook must delete insults to Austrian politician worldwide, says court

Facebook has lost its appeal in a landmark online speech case, as Austria’s Supreme Court determined that it must remove comments that are defamatory in Austria worldwide. The comments, which must be blocked while an injunction is active, insult Austrian Green Party politician Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek.

Austrian news outlet Der Standard reported the news earlier today. It echoes a similar ruling from the European Court of Justice, which handed a defeat to Facebook late last year. Glawischnig-Piesczek originally sued Facebook in 2016, arguing that a series of insults — including calling her a “lousy traitor” and a member of a “fascist party” — damaged her reputation.

But the comments would likely be protected speech in some countries, and Facebook said that it shouldn’t be required to block the comments (or re-posted versions of them) worldwide. It called the court’s 2019 ruling a dangerous precedent, saying it “undermines the longstanding principle that one country does not have the right to impose its laws on speech on another country.”

The decision comes as Facebook is facing criticism over its moderation policies worldwide — both from critics who argue it’s been slow to remove hateful content and from conservative politicians who have accused it of suppressing speech.

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