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EU courts can order Facebook to take down illegal content

Facebook warned that the EU Courts ruling could be abused by individuals to censor critical, uneasy or scathing material

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EU courts can order Facebook to take down illegal content

Top European Union court said on Thursday that national courts in Europe can order Facebook to take down illegal posts, photos and videos worldwide. The ruling added that European countries can also completely restrict the access to that material. The ruling by the European Union's highest court gives them the power to ask online platforms to remove harmful and slanderous content worldwide.

The EU Court ruling is allied to a case brought to an Austrian court by Eva Glawisching-Piesczek who asked for the removal of a Facebook post about her that was found offensive. The post was public and could be seen by any Facebook user.  Glawischnig-Piesczek had sued Facebook in the Austrian courts, which deduced that the comments were made in order to harm her character. The Austrian Court had later referred the case to the European Court of Justice seeking a ruling on validity of its judgement. It also wanted to seek advice on whether the company should be forced to delete illegal content beyond Austria.

"EU law does not preclude a host provider like Facebook from being ordered to remove identical and, in certain circumstances, equivalent comments previously declared to be illegal," the European Court of Justice said in a statement.

"In addition, EU law does not preclude such an injunction from producing effects worldwide, within the framework of the relevant international law."

On the other hand, Facebook and other critics have highlighted the fact that letting a single nation force an internet platform to delete material elsewhere would hurt free expression. It added that the rules could be abused by individuals to censor critical, uneasy or scathing material.

Facebook has time and again called itself impartial and has maintained that it is not responsible for the content posted by its users. However, owing to intense scrutiny, Facebook recently appointed an 11-member oversight board to examine content choices.

Edited By: Udit Verma

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