back to article EU's top court sees no problem with telling Facebook to take content down globally

The European Court of Justice (CJEU) on Thursday ruled that Facebook update its filters and allow member states to remove content that's been deemed illegal, not only for Facebook users in the plaintiff's country but everywhere. The decision follows a complaint by Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek, the leader of Austria's Green Party, …

  1. James Anderson

    Lots of laws!

    Social Media Mogul. — we operate in lots of countries with lots of different laws, so, we do not need to comply with any of them.

    Big Wigged Judge — you operate in lots of countries with lots of different laws, so you should obey all of them,

    The first option (the current situation) allows a Tsunami of hate, libel, misinformation and fraud. To propagate.

    The second option would suppress legitimate content because North Korea, Russia or Saudi Arabia objected.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Lots of laws!

      I think the critical part is if it complies with international law.

      If it just contravenes local law, the scope can only be in the country of origin, or in the case of the EU, possibly the whole EU. If the local law has an international equivalent, it then applies worldwide.

      1. MiguelC Silver badge

        Re: Lots of laws!

        The problem with international law is enforcement, as the ICJ's jurisdiction is dependent upon the consent of the particular states involved. There is no international police force or comprehensive system of law enforcement nor any supreme executive authority.

        1. Yes Me Silver badge

          Re: Lots of laws!

          The problem with "international law" is that it's pretty much mythical, and certainly non-existent in this area. If anything, human rights argue against censorship, and international libel law doesn't exist. I think FB will ignore this ruling outside the EU.

          1. unimaginative

            Re: Lots of laws!

            Human rights law is not universal either.

            All of Europe (except Belarus) has signed up to the ECHR, but there are various other treaties that various countries have, or have not, signed up to.

    2. Aqua Marina

      Re: Lots of laws!

      Or option 3, which incidentally is what both the EU and the USA does with other areas of law.

      Social Media Mogul. — we operate in lots of countries with lots of different laws, so, we do not need to comply with any of them.

      Big Wigged Judge — you operate a local office in our jurisdiction, so you follow our rulings worldwide or your local office gets the penalties until it a) goes bust or b) pulls out. In either case any executives visiting our jurisdiction will be held accountable upon arrival at the border so either a) your executive is incarcerated until you comply or b) you never visit, including holidays, or transiting.

      Essentially your option is to comply, or abandon the market and never enter the area personally again.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Lots of laws!

        "Essentially your option is to comply, or abandon the market and never enter the area personally again."

        You left out at least two more options:

        - quietly comply with requests and hope the actions do not become public and pretend it never existed.

        - fight the actions with as much publicity as possible hoping the media attention will make the legal system/law enforcement alter their course of action

        I'm not suggesting they are good options...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Lots of laws!

          And if there is any backbone when they fightback then have the judge et al Go Dark and be blacklisted ftom the platforms.

          When their kids family and coworkers scream at them because nobody has access they may change their minds or be retired by their peers.

      2. dajames

        Re: Lots of laws!

        a) your executive is incarcerated until you comply...

        I (mis)read that as "incinerated", which sounds like a much better idea ... though I'm not sure how you'd manage the "until" part, then ...

  2. arkhangelsk

    The low respect for freedom of speech, the sovereignty of other states, or the right of self-determination by the CJEU is stunning.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Read it again. The judgements can only be enforced worldwide if there is an international equivalent law to the one locally contravened.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    So I guess those EU judges would be fine with China forcing Facebook to remove anything relating to Tianamen Square or Hong Kong's riots, Russia removing anything anti-Putin, and never mind the Sharia law level of censorship some Muslim countries may want.

    I'd say Facebook would only have cat pictures left, but there are countries who might not want people seeing cats as "cute" lest it hurt the business of street vendors who sell them as food.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Stupid

      If there is an internation equivalent law, yes, they would comply. If that is only a local judgement on a local law, no.

    2. Whizzdome

      Re: Stupid

      If showed only cat pictures then I night be persuaded to use it.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Don't use the online sewer...

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Just

      The problem is when someone else use the online sewer to publish unlawful contents about you... the online sewers make it too easy.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Just

        Who cares if they do?

        Just don't participate.

        1. imanidiot Silver badge

          Re: Just

          The people who get harassed, stalked, attacked and or lynched, who suffer real consequences because people who DO participate read the false rumours and lies spread about them would certainly care. That is the point. You don't need to participate to suffer the consequences of anti-social media!

          1. holmegm

            Re: Just

            If people commit crimes, the problem is that they committed crimes, not that they read something somewhere.

            Holding people accountable for their own actions can be tricky, but hopefully not as tricky as trying to regulate the thoughts and speech of everyone on Earth.

          2. Nick Kew

            Re: Just

            You don't need to participate to suffer the consequences of anti-social media!

            Like Shakespeare's Desdemona?

            Like Orwell's Snowball?

            Like Thomas a Becket?

            Malicious misinformation is nothing new.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Just

      By participating you are helping to validate the abuse/misinformation.

      Never argue with an idiot.

  5. Chozo

    Go for it

    The world will still know that free people stood against a tyrant, that few stood against many, and before this battle was over, even a god-king can bleed.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Go for it

      Did you say the same when Apple/Microsoft stood against the US requests for access to information held outside the US?

      There's a reason that sensible legal systems confine themselves to what they can control rather than pretending they have powers that they do not. Showing that you are powerless tends to be exploited...

  6. Trollslayer


    We could ban Farcebook.

    It is a social disease.

  7. LDS Silver badge

    "YouTube's deletion of 100,000 videos"

    If they were so stupid to store them on YouTube, they deserved it. If you need an archive for whatever purpose, build you own, or find one apt for the purpose. Don't store them on a general ad-slinger site with videos as decoys.

    Anyway the real issue is here. Facebook & C. are designed to keep people on their site to sling ads to them. For this reason they are stinking, rotten cheeses with a lot of black holes. Their very business model is rotten, and there's no way to fix it.

    1. sbt Silver badge

      Too big to fail (to moderate)

      Big tech argues they have too much content to moderate, but they have no problems sharing it and monetizing it. Another classic example of private profits, socialized losses.

      This is not a sustainable, long term model; barriers to distributed content publishing will come down, just as they are for messaging. Gaming platforms like Discord will go mainstream and shared media outside of YT will get richer. They're already sharing dash-cam videos on Twitch.

    2. Cederic Silver badge

      Re: "YouTube's deletion of 100,000 videos"

      Maintaining an archive of 100,000 videos is not cheap but is viable.

      Making those available in an easily accessible form as a body of evidence for analysis, review and publicising a serious issue takes substantially greater resources. Using a site such as Youtube that already has the necessary infrastructure and mechanisms in place doesn't sound unreasonable.

      1. LDS Silver badge

        Re: "YouTube's deletion of 100,000 videos"

        If you have a copy you can publish them elsewhere - and give direct access to people needing to study it - but do you really need YouTube fire hose to publish such material? Or maybe was a way to monetize other people's suffering?

        If you feed the Moloch, and the Moloch devours you, don't complain.

  8. Charles 9 Silver badge

    This could make for a dilemma if a firm subject to TWO countries (say an American firm in Europe) gets handed CONFLICTING rulings on the same piece (say told by one to remove a disparaging story and by the other NOT to remove or face a violation of Freedom of the Press charge).

    1. Aqua Marina

      There is a US law I believe that makes it illegal to force someone to commit a criminal act in another country.

      Ultimately it comes down to a matter of extradition, which unfortunately is political and changes all the time, usually in the favour of the more powerful state. The only answer is to not put yourself in the position of breaking laws, because it's a gamble if long term, you get away with it.

      1. ArrZarr

        That might be the 5th amendment, which protects against self incrimination.

        IANAL, but I can see how you might wrangle the 5th in this situation, although it appears to be mostly used in different circumstances.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "The only answer is to not put yourself in the position of breaking laws..."

        Problem being sometimes you can't help but end up in such a dilemma, often through no fault of your own. It's like being told as the reason for someone hating your guts, "You were born!"

  9. GreggS

    Facebook/Google et al

    How is this situation any different from the ruling in Google's favour around global takedowns, which went in Google's favour?

    1. Michael

      Re: Facebook/Google et al

      As this ruling requires that there is an international law to apply. Right to be forgotten is an EU only law and not part of general worldwide agreed treaties. Therefore it applies locally. This judgement states that if there is a relevant international law found to be breached then the locally applied for an won court ruling should be enforce globally.

    2. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Facebook/Google et al

      The "Right To Be Forgotten" is not about unlawful material. It's about not being punished your whole life for something no longer relevant happened in the past - and for which lawful sources exists.

      It asks just to make some material less easy to find and not prominently displayed - not to delete the sources.

      This is about unlawful material - which should be "destroyed" and no longer available.

      For example, the news that someone was arrested while walking drunk and naked around Trafalgar Square could be requested to be de-linked after many years. Still the news were a lawful report.

      But if the same person was photographed naked in his or her home without consent, the photos should be destroyed - it was an illegal act and there's no lawful right to keep them.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Neat bit of retaliation ..

    That's a neat bit of "let's ignore sovereignty" payback for the Cloud Act 2018.

    Well done. There are some days that I actually *like* Brussels (usually I go sit in a quiet corner and wait until it passes).

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The REAL problem

    is platforms doing things on the cheap - as the failed filters shows. Automation still can't cut it, so the reality is you need to employ people to do the job properly.

    After all, it's not like Google, Facebook et al can't afford to.

    Incidentally, if you can't tackle what should be a pretty basic job for a human with "AI", maybe you're not ready to run the world with it quite yet ?

    (Adds "content filtering" to list of tests for AI before I - or my boss - spends a penny on it).

    1. Snowy Silver badge

      Re: The REAL problem

      [quote]Automation still can't cut it, so the reality is you need to employ people to do the job properly.[/quote]

      The problem is the size, they have over a 1 Billion users. Lets say If each one posted on average one item per day and it took 10 seconds on average to deal with employing staff working 8 hours a day you would need about 347222 people to do the job. It could be said to be impossible maybe until they can prove they can police the mess they should be banned :O

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The REAL problem

        With respect, the problem is NOT the size, revenue grows with it.

        The problem is their profit margin which dictates a race to the bottom in support and monitoring until the point where it is cheaper to pay the fines or lobby your way out of trouble than to do things right. That's why the fines are IMHO *WAY* too small - the cost of fines should exceed the cost of doing the job as it should be done.

        While I'm at it, whoever came up with the idea that customers helping themselves in forums is an excuse to stop offering support altogether or only via a maze of options so complex that people give up deserves to be locked up in the same cell as Trump when they finally nail him, with 27 level voice menu system that frequently hangs up halfway through they will have to use every time they want food.

  12. Snowy Silver badge

    Not a Facebook user

    [quote]The decision follows a complaint by Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek, the leader of Austria's Green Party, over a post she claimed was defamatory that was made to her Facebook account.[/quote]

    If the item in question was posted to her Facebook page why could she just not delete it, surely you should have control over what posts appear on your page.

    1. tyrfing

      Re: Not a Facebook user

      It was probably a reply to a post she made. You can delete or edit your post, but you cannot edit replies as far as I know.

    2. Falmari Silver badge

      Re: Not a Facebook user

      Snowy I read that as well it seems to me that they should be able to remove a post to Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek page. I read it as account which suggests it is to the page not reply to a post.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Facebook's dumb filter example.

    I received a flashed up "you have posted inappropriate content" message of some extremely slow and inadequate Facebook filter on Saturday - an old black an white photo of some Nazi Salutes with 'hands up if you read the daily mail' in lolcats style text. Whilst I admit it's in poor taste it was kinda funny. I assume the the filter was on Nazi's and It can't read or understand irony. Doesn't bode well for 'automatic filtering'. Or criticism of the Daily Mail...

    Hands up if you read facebook?

  14. Aedile


    I'm more curious as to how any company will block "equivalent" posts. If I say politician X is a fat head and the equivalent has to be blocked how would posts like:

    the politician has a big head

    the politician has a large gourd

    the politician has a gigantic melon

    be handled? What filter could determine this accurately? How big of a staff would be required if it isn't automated? This seems unworkable.....

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