No More Trolls: Austria Rules Facebook Must Remove Hate Speech

An Austrian court case aimed at making Facebook responsible for policing vitriolic posts could have an international ripple effect.

Illustration: R. A. Di Ieso
May 08, 2017 at 2:16 PM ET

Amid the ongoing international conversation surrounding Facebook’s role in curbing hate speech or content that may incite violence, an Austrian court ruled that the company must delete all postings deemed as hate speech from their platform.

On Friday, the Viennese appeals court ruled that Facebook must remove specific postings targeting Austria Green party leader Eva Glawischnig. In addition to deleting any verbatim repostings of the content, the court added that Facebook deleting the hate speech in Austria would be insufficient, saying that it must be taken down throughout the entire platform.

The ruling could prove to be globally significant to the effort throughout Europe to force some of the biggest companies in the world, such as Facebook, Google and Twitter, to remove posts those countries deem as fake news, extremist content and hate speech. Last month, the German government approved a tentative plan to fine social networks up to $55 million for failing to remove hate speech in a quick manner. The European Union is currently considering laws that cover all member states, according to Reuters.

Austria’s Green Party, which is hoping to bring the ruling its country’s highest court, is also pushing for Facebook to pay for damages and identify fake accounts. It’s the latest blow to Facebook and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who has reiterated that there is no room for hate speech on the platform. Last month, Facebook published a paper on how it is working to combat “information operations,” which include fake news campaigns, from spreading on their platform. 

But as Dieter Brosz, the parliamentarian for Austria’s Green Party, told Reuters, that isn’t enough.

“Facebook must put up with the accusation that it is the world’s biggest platform for hate and that it is doing nothing against this,” Brosz said.