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Facebook – hate speech not welcome here

In a landmark ruling, an Austrian court has ordered Facebook to remove hate speech from its posts. The ruling is not country specific.

The case was brought last year by Austria’s Green party over defamatory insults to its leader, Eva Glawischnig, posted to Facebook by a fake account.

The party said the posts were not taken down – despite repeated complaints. While the Commercial Court of Vienna granted a preliminary injunction in December, Facebook appealed the ruling to take down posts deemed to be hateful under Austrian law.

Facebook’s appeal has now failed and the court has ruled that it must also remove all re-posts and global content rather than just blocking posts locally – expanding the significance of the ruling beyond Austria’s borders.

Facebook is under siege, at least in the EU. According to Reuters and various reports

  • In April Germany voted to back proposals for a law to hit social media firms with fines of up to €50 million if they fail to promptly remove illegal hate speech from their platforms – within 24 hours after a complaint has been made for “obviously criminal content”, and within seven days for other illegal content.
  • German courts have ruled that Facebook-owned WhatsApp cannot share data with it without a user’s permission.
  • This month UK MPs also called for the government to consider a similar approach there, to try to enforce better standards of content moderation on social platform giants.
  • There are signs US lawmakers might be thinking along similar lines too, vis-a-vis terrorism content.
  • Australia has stepped up its litigation against Facebook posters enabling defamation cases to be brought against posters as publishers.
  • And the Greens, fresh after their success, are now embarking on legal action to make Facebook remove similar postings, and to make it identify holders of fake accounts. They also want Facebook to pay damages, which would make it easier for individuals in similar cases to take the financial risk of taking legal action.

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg said hate speech has no place on the platform. It has announced it would employ 3000 more staff to add to the 4500 already trying to identify inappropriate content. 

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!