Austrian Supreme Court confirms worldwide removal of defamatory comments on Facebook

The Austrian Supreme Court has delivered its final judgement in the case Glawischnig-Piesczek v. Facebook Ireland Ltd, requiring Facebook to delete all defamatory statements about Austrian politician Eva Gawischnig-Pieczek globally. 

In this long-running case, the Austrian Supreme Court sought the ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) on preliminary questions regarding the scope of content to be removed and  the territorial scope of such removal. Last year, in a milestone ruling in C 18/18, the CJEU found that the E-Commerce Directive does not preclude a EU member state from ordering a hosting provider to remove or block content that has been declared unlawful or content that is identical or equivalent to such unlawful information. The CJEU also held that such removal can be ordered worldwide. The final judgement of the Austrian Supreme Court is in line with this CJEU ruling. 

Facebook argued that such judgement ‘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,’ 

The judgement of the CJEU in the case Glawischnig-Pieczek v. Facebook has been criticised by civil society organisations promoting the freedom of expression online. The main criticism relates to the concerns that such a ruling means that social media platforms could be compelled to automatically filter users’ posts and that national courts could force platforms to remove posts by users in other jurisdictions.