European Court Ruling on Facebook Sets Harmful Precedent

October 3, 2019

BRUSSELS —In response to European Court of Justice Ruling that Facebook must remove illegal content, the Center for Data Innovation released the following statement from Senior Policy Analyst Eline Chivot. 

Today's decision by the European Court of Justice sets a precedent which will have negative global implications on freedom of speech. European courts can now order Internet companies to remove posts, photographs, and videos in other countries.

What is prohibited in one nation may not be in another, including within the European Union and between its member states. For example, laws on what is considered defamatory speech vary widely between countries. Expanding content bans worldwide will undermine Internet users' right to access information and freedom of expression in other countries. And this precedent will embolden other countries, including those with little respect for free speech, to make similar demands.

This ruling opens a Pandora's box that Europe must attempt to shut immediately. The EU is in the process of considering ways to further regulate online content, including by updating its current liability regime for online intermediaries. EU policymakers should accelerate efforts to revise the law to clarify that members states should not be allowed to force Internet companies to take down content where there is no global consensus on the unlawfulness of that content. The European Court of Justice should not be the last word on this issue.