ECJ opinion: Facebook must do more against insults


                                        Facebook is said to do more against insulting posts, according to the lawyer. (Photo: Wachiwit / Shutterstock)

According to the report, operators of platforms do not only have to delete hate mailings, but also actively seek and remove similar statements – worldwide.

Courts could force platform operators to look for hate mailing and word-for-word or similar posts and remove them. Advocate General Maciej Szpunar calls for this in a report – it is a case at the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for an insulting post on Facebook.

Stop spreading hate mailing

In April 2016, the Austrian Green politician Eva Glawischnig-Piescze was in a Facebook post, among other things, as a “corrupt tramp” has been called. She then sued Facebook. A few months later, the Supreme Court in Austria ordered the corresponding post as an insult – Facebook had to block the contribution.

Then, the Court turned to the European Court of Justice with a crucial question: does Facebook have to actively look for similar posts after such an incident? The Advocate General at the ECJ says: Yes.

According to this, platform operators would have to search their networks worldwide for verbal insults and delete them. Courts could also force them to erase similar expressions – at least to the user from whom the original insult originated. Other similar insults would only have to be deleted by the operators if they point them out.

No general surveillance duty

Szpunar justifies his assessment with a quote from the movie The Social Network: “The Internet does not write in pencil but in ink.” The spread of hate messages is therefore difficult to stop. Therefore, according to Szpunar, if platform operators use an “electronic ink killer” in certain cases, they would not be subject to a general surveillance obligation, as the Advocate General points out.

The 2000 Ecommerce Directive states that platform operators are not responsible for content that third parties post on their platform. For unlawful contributions, however, the notice-and-take-down principle applies: If operators learn of an illegal contribution, they must remove it. In the context of civil rights on the subject of honor insults Szpunar considers it appropriate that platform operators delete relevant content worldwide. In each individual case, however, fundamental rights must be weighed and the principle of proportionality must be respected.

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