Court ruling in Austria could censor the internet worldwide.

by David Solomonoff

The Facebook logo and a thumbs up on a cracked screen

The case started with an April 2016 Facebook post, in which a user shared an article featuring a photo of Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek, then-chair of Austria’s Green Party, along with commentary labeling her a “lousy traitor,” “corrupt oaf,” and member of a “fascist party,” apparently in response to her immigration policies. This is core, protected speech in the United States. But it was deemed defamation under Austrian law. And in a series of rulings, Austrian courts ordered that Facebook take down and keep off any such post, and do so around the world.

Under the Austrian court precedent, courts in any such jurisdiction would be more or less free to apply their local laws to compel not just local, but global takedowns of posts or comments that violate the vagaries (and often highly speech-restrictive) of local law. And they could also require that copycat and equivalent posts be kept off—also on a global scale. This creates a classic risk of a race to the bottom, with the most censor-prone nation setting global speech rules.

Source: A court ruling in Austria could censor the internet worldwide.

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