The European Union’s highest court Thursday ruled that lower courts in Europe can order Facebook to remove user comments that have been declared illegal.
According to a new report from The New York Times, the ruling, which is in stark contrast the European Court of Justice’s landmark “right to be forgotten” decision last month, states that while Facebook is exempt from actively policing all of the content on its platform in Europe, the social network must remove user comments that European courts have deemed illegal.
“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.”
The ruling follows a case brought to an Austrian court by a former politician who demanded Facebook take down a post concerning her that the court said was harmful to her reputation and was public for any user to see.
Facebook criticised the decision and claimed it was not their job to monitor and remove speech that may break the law in any given country.
“It undermines the long-standing principle that one country does not have the right to impose its laws on speech on another country,” Facebook said.
“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.”
It is important to note that the court did not find Facebook liable for the defamatory comments posted on its platform. However, it found that Facebook “did not act expeditiously to remove or to disable access to that information.”