An Austrian court has, in a landmark ruling, forced social media giant Facebook to remove a post that misquoted a member of the Austrian Green Party and could have severe ramifications.
A court in Vienna has made a landmark ruling that could have a major impact in Austria and elsewhere in Europe. The court looked at a case in which Austrian Green Party leader Eva Glawischnig was deliberately misquoted by male user posing as a woman with a fake account. According to the ruling, the onus must now be on Facebook to remove all posts deemed libelous reports Kleine Zeitung.
The fake profile under the name “Michaela Jaskova” wrote that the 47-year-old Green leader was a “corrupt tramp” and a “rotten traitor” back in April of this year. In court, the man behind the profile said he has made the comments in reaction to a picture he saw in which the politician had been quoted as saying of migrants, “those who are in need of protection have the right to our girls! Anything else would be racist toward refugees!”
Green Spokesman Dieter Brosz has said the case, in which the Greens sued Facebook for 69,500 euros, will have a global significance. Media lawyer Maria Windhager said, “this is a very important sign,” and that Facebook, which normally quotes the much more free speech oriented Californian law when dealing with such cases, may now look more to local laws in places like Austria and other European countries.
The Green party has announced it will be looking at further actions due to the fact that the posts are still available to be viewed in Germany and other countries and are only blocked for Austrian users.
The impact of the ruling could set a precedent for future deletions of posts across Europe and a crack down on speech deemed to be “hateful” according to the speech and libel laws in Europe which are much tougher than in the U.S. where Facebook is based.
Facebook has come under pressure from the German government and Chancellor Angela Merkel regarding negative posts about migrants in recent months. the Chancellor has accused the social media company of “distorting perceptions” of migrants and has demanded the public be able to see the algorithms Facebook uses.
Ms. Merkel has also expressed her desire to see Facebook and other social media platforms actively censor what her government deems to be hateful speech toward migrants. The government has put in a program to see how many reported hate speech violations are deleted within 24 hours by the company and will likely create legislation if not satisfied by the results which may include fines.
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