Court Judgement Hammers New Nail In Free Speech Coffin

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Court Judgement Hammers New Nail In Free Speech Coffin

On October 3, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled in a judgment that Facebook can be ordered by national courts of EU member states to remove defamatory material worldwide:

"EU law does not preclude a host provider such as Facebook from being ordered to remove identical and, in certain circumstances, equivalent comments previously declared to be illegal. In addition, EU law does not preclude such an injunction from producing effects worldwide, within the framework of the relevant international law which it is for Member States to take into account."

The judgment has brought concern among free speech organizations. Thomas Hughes, the executive director of ARTICLE 19, a non-profit organization that works on "protecting the right to freedom of expression around the world," warns: 

"This judgment has major implications for online freedom of expression around the world. Compelling social media platforms like Facebook to automatically remove posts regardless of their context will infringe our right to free speech and restrict the information we see online...

"The ruling also means that a court in one EU member state will be able to order the removal of social media posts in other countries, even if they are not considered unlawful there.

This would set a dangerous precedent where the courts of one country can control what internet users in another country can see. This could be open to abuse, particularly by regimes with weak human rights records."

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