EU Court Ruling On Worldwide Take Down of Defamatory Content Raises Freedom of Speech Concerns

BY Heather Greenfield
October 3, 2019

Brussels, BELGIUM — The EU Court of Justice today ruled that host providers can be asked to take down defamatory content, that is “identical” or “equivalent” to content previously ruled illegal under national rules. The Decision adds that hosting providers should remove information covered by the injunction or block access to that information worldwide, as long as EU countries comply with international law.

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 was asked by the Oberster Gerichtshof (Supreme Court, Austria) to rule on the territorial reach of “illegal information” take-downs and whether similar content should be proactively removed.

Today’s decision is binding and follows the recommendations of Advocate General Szpunar.  

The Computer & Communications Industry Association has long advocated for free speech and workable and balanced measures for the takedown of infringing content that set clear steps and responsibilities for hosting services providers and complainants.

 The following can be attributed to CCIA Europe Senior Manager, Victoria de Posson:

“The ruling essentially allows one country or region to decide what Internet users around the world can say and what information they can access. What might be considered defamatory comments about someone in one country will likely be considered constitutional free speech in another. Few hosting platforms, especially startups, will have the resources to implement elaborate monitoring systems.”

For media inquiries, please contact: Heather Greenfield hgreenfield@ccianet.org

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