EU court to rule whether Facebook should seek and destroy hate speech

Austrian lawmakers bump up row over criminal content

The European Court of Justice has been asked to decide whether Facebook should actively search for hate speech posted by users.

The referral was made by the Austrian Supreme Court as a result of a case brought by former Austrian Green party leader Eva Glawischnig.

Glawischnig was subject to hate speech on the platform by a fake account, and brought a suit against Facebook in 2016.

Last year, an Austrian appeals court ruled in her favour, saying that Facebook must remove the posts globally – rather than just blocking them in that member state.

Since then, Facebook – and other platforms – have come under increased pressure to take rapid action against hate or terrorist content.

Germany's network enforcement act, for instance, requires companies to remove or block criminal content within 24 hours, or seven days for complex cases, of it being reported.

But now the ECJ has been asked to rule on the question of whether the social network should actively seek out hate speech – something that would greatly increase the pressure on Facebook.

Austrian paper Der Standard reported that the EU court has been asked to decide if Facebook needs to look for similar posts, instead of just reposts.

It will also rule on whether such content needs to be removed globally.

In a bid to convince governments and the public that they take criminal content on their platforms seriously, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube have formed a group, called the "Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism".

The European Commission has acknowledged such efforts, saying earlier this week that the "significantly increased" resourcing "is starting to achieve results".

However, the comments, which came ahead of a meeting with the tech firms to discuss progress, also made it clear that if tech firms weren't deemed to be doing enough, they would put forward extra legislation.

Justice commissioner Vera Jourová is expected to release the results of the third monitoring report on the EU's code of conduct on illegal online hate speech next week.

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment. ®

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