EU Court Opinion Poses Questions About Platforms’ Monitoring And Removal Obligations

BY Heather Greenfield
June 4, 2019

Brussels, BELGIUM — Advocate General Maciej Szpunar of the European Court of Justice today delivered his non-binding opinion in the case of whether the removal of illegal online content should apply beyond the borders of one country, and whether hosting service providers should proactively identify and remove similar content.

The case involves a user registered on Facebook under a false name who posted defamatory comments about an Austrian politician. Facebook removed the comment in Austria. The CJEU is being asked to rule on the territorial reach of “illegal information” take-downs and whether similar content should be proactively removed.

In his recommendations to the Court, Advocate General Szpunar contends that a national court can order a host provider to remove the specific content that is considered illegal in a given Member State, as well as any “equivalent” information posted by the same user, and any identical content across its hosting service. The Opinion “does not preclude” a worldwide injunction but the effects of such an injunction should be assessed under international law.

The Computer & Communications Industry Association understands the goal of removing defamatory content. We recommend clear rules and online safeguards to not harm lawful freedom of expression. We would be concerned if any one person or country were allowed to censor the global internet.

The following can be attributed to CCIA Europe Vice President Christian Borggreen:

“Today’s opinion essentially suggests that all hosting service providers have a general monitoring obligation to identify and remove online content that one country deems illegal. We hope the final court ruling will remain proportional and not create any new rights whereby one country can demand that some online content be removed globally.”

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