A boy surfs on the Facebook site in Medellin, Antioquia department, Colombia on May 12, 2012. AFP PHOTO/Raul ARBOLEDA (Photo credit should read RAUL ARBOLEDA/AFP/GettyImages)Facebook must remove abusive posts from its platform worldwide, an Austrian court has ruled in response to a complaint brought by the nation’s Green Party.
It followed abuse its leader received from trolls on the site, and was filed against Facebook’s Irish company.
Eva Glawischnig, who has been the federal spokesperson for the Green Party since 2008, had been targeted by “a fake profile” called Michaela Jaskova, which accused Ms Glawischnig of treachery.
The party has complained the ruling leaves many questions unanswered, including whether the obligation to delete abusive material should include similar but not identical posts.
It is considering taking the matter to the Supreme Court to establish whether similar content, which cannot be automatically detected by Facebook, should be deleted too.
Neil Brown, managing director of law firm decoded:Legal, said the ruling “appears to go beyond blocking orders which we have seen so far”.
He told Sky News: “The ruling would appear to mean that if content which I post lawfully from England is prohibited in another country, that other country’s courts could compel Facebook to remove it globally, despite its legality here.
“If this principle were adopted more widely, perhaps we will see the de-centralisation of online platforms…in an attempt to avoid what they are likely to perceive as an excessively broad assertion of jurisdiction of national courts.”
Facebook has not responded to the ruling and declined to comment to Sky News, but is set to hire an additional 3,000 staff to combat hate speech and harmful material hosted on its platform.
In January, a man with learning difficulties was bound, gagged and brutally punched in a video that was live streamed on Facebook.
Last month, a video was uploaded to the site of a man shot dead in an unprovoked attack.
Regulation regarding these incidents is being pursued by governments across Europe.
The European Commission, in partnership with Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube published a code of conduct on countering illegal hate speech online.
In December, the Commission published a fact sheet reporting that 28% of all notifications of alleged online hate speech led to the removal of the flagged content, although only 40% were reviewed within 24 hours.
Earlier this month in the UK, MPs stated that social media companies should be fined if they fail to remove harmful material from their platforms.
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