A European Union (EU) court has given judges more power over the removal of Facebook content in the region.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the EU’s Court of Justice ruled Thursday (Oct. 3) that judges in EU member states can compel Facebook and other social media sites to find and remove content that is the same as or equal to content found to be illegal.
The ruling also says there’s no reason such orders don’t apply worldwide, as long as it’s done “within the framework of the relevant international law.”
Facebook said the decision “undermines the longstanding principle that one country does not have the right to impose its laws on speech on another country. It also opens the door to obligations being imposed on internet companies to proactively monitor content and then interpret if it is ‘equivalent’ to content that has been found to be illegal.”
Facebook’s current policy removes content when requested, but usually keeps it available in other parts of the world. According to recent data, the countries that most request removal of content are India, Brazil and Pakistan. However, of the top 15 countries that ask for content to be removed, three are in Europe: France, Italy and Germany.
The ruling stemmed from a case brought by a former politician in the Green Party bloc in Austria, who wanted a defamatory comment removed, as well as reposts of it.
The move is another step in the continuing debate between advocates of free speech on the internet and those who would prefer it to be regulated more closely.
On one side of the issue are proposed laws that would make Facebook and other social media companies responsible for what’s posted on their sites, and on the other side are those who worry that restricting content could lead to less ability for freedom of expression. One recent example is a case involving Google’s parent company Alphabet, where the plaintiff expressed concern that getting rid of content could allow for censorship.