Facebook can’t let libel stand
The European Union’s top court is forcing Facebook to “protect people from hatred on the internet,” said Petra Stuiber. In a ruling last week, the European Court of Justice said that individual countries can order the social media giant to remove posts, photos, and videos not just within their own borders but around the world. It’s a victory for Austria’s Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek, a Green Party politician who sued to rid Facebook of comments libeling her as a “traitor,” a “corrupt oaf,” and a “fascist.” But it is also a victory for civil rights. Women are frequent targets of “virtual hate attacks” that can traumatize them so badly that they have to withdraw from public discourse, posting only “photos of the sunset or a cat.” This silencing of rebellious women is “inconsistent with European values.” Of course, we don’t want an authoritarian government to be able to scrub the web of any content it dislikes “under the guise of protecting against hate,” but it should be possible to distinguish between such censorship and true defamation. If the EU ruling can push Facebook to “take responsibility for what is happening on its gigantic platform,” then all those who care about freedom of speech—and women’s right to exercise that freedom—should be satisfied.