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Europe v. Facebook

European countries can order Facebook to remove illegal content worldwide, court says

Individual European Union countries can order Facebook to remove content from its platform worldwide, the top court in Europe has ruled.

In a decision Thursday, the European Court of Justice said European Union courts can order the platform to remove content that has been deemed illegal and restrict access to it even outside of the court's jurisdiction, The New York Times reports.

This decision came as part of a lawsuit brought by a former Austrian politician, Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek, who wanted posts about her that she said were defamatory removed. These included comments posted on a user's personal page that referred to her as "corrupt," a "lousy traitor," and a "fascist" and that were ultimately ruled defamatory in Austria.

According to the court's decision, Facebook can also be ordered to take down content "identical" and "equivalent" to the content in question, per Reuters. However, the platform won't be responsible for "actively tracking down this content," Engadget writes. Still, considering what content would be considered illegal varies from country to country, Gizmodo notes "the ruling presents a tricky situation, to say the least."

Facebook in a statement blasted the decision, per The Hollywood Reporter, saying it "undermines the long-standing principle that one country does not have the right to impose its laws on speech on another country." The company also called on courts to set forth clear definitions of "identical" and "equivalent" but warned of a potential "chilling effect on freedom of expression."