Facebook: EU Speech Police Violate ‘Freedom of Expression’

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Facebook has finally realized it’s impossible to uphold the American concept of freedom of speech while appeasing other governments around the world.

Global Policy Management VP Monika Bickert complained in an October 14 post for Facebook that an EU court order “raises critical questions for freedom of expression.” The court wanted Facebook to remove a post that broke Austrian hate speech laws, not just in Austria, but globally. Bickert wrote that this decision “undermines the long-standing principle that one country does not have the right to impose its laws on another country.”

A former Green member of the European Parliament, Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek, was criticized on Facebook Ireland. She demanded that the platform block posts featuring her image if they had offensive captions.

The Court of Justice of the European Union shockingly agreed with her on October 3, saying, “[T]he Directive on electronic commerce ... does not preclude a court of a Member State from ordering a host provider: to remove information which it stores, the content of which is equivalent to the content of information which was previously declared to be unlawful.”

Bickert argued that this ruling “opens the door for other countries around the world, including non-democratic countries who severely limit speech, to demand the same power.” Countries like Pakistan jail Facebook users who so much as like certain posts considered to be “blasphemous,” according to tech magazine Wired. If the EU can demand that Facebook remove posts, can countries like Pakistan do the same?

Another “troubling” aspect of the EU ruling, according to Bickert, is the algorithms required to carry out such court orders. “[T]he ruling might lead to a situation,” she wrote, “in which private internet companies could be forced to rely on automated technologies to police and remove ‘equivalent’ illegal speech.”

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made a reference to this court ruling on Facebook Live. He said, “I thought this was a fairly troubling development.” While Zuckerberg admitted that typically Facebook follows local laws in a country “when a government is democratic and has good rule of law,” he stated that the EU ruling did not have a precedent.

 
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