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Facebook may have to censor online hate globally, EU judges say

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Facebook Inc may be ordered to patrol its platform across the world to remove offensive and defamatory posts by users in the European Union, the bloc's highest court ruled in another landmark privacy decision.

[LUXEMBOURG] Facebook Inc may be ordered to patrol its platform across the world to remove offensive and defamatory posts by users in the European Union, the bloc's highest court ruled in another landmark privacy decision.

European courts can force platforms such as the social-network giant to seek and destroy such content once they've been alerted, the EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg said in a binding decision on Thursday. Courts can also order a worldwide removal as long as they take international law into account when they issue the edicts, the judges said.

Platforms from Facebook to Google's YouTube won a nod of approval from the EU earlier this year for tackling hate speech posted online as part of a code of conduct signed with the commission in 2016. The companies vowed to tackle online hate speech within 24 hours, once made aware of it.

Despite the platforms' efforts, EU officials have been mulling new bloc-wide rules, building on existing legislation in Germany, that could hit big tech firms with possible fines if they fail to remove illegal hate speech quickly enough. The discussions fit into broader plans by the EU to overhaul liability rules for platforms.

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Austria's Supreme Court last year sought the EU judges' guidance in a dispute between Facebook and Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek, a former Green member of the European Parliament, who was the subject of a number of offensive posts on a Facebook user's account. She asked for an order against the company to block any further publications of pictures of her if the text alongside them included similarly offensive content.

The Austrian court also asked whether under EU law companies could be forced to remove any content from its platform "with an equivalent meaning" to illegal information it has been made aware of. Lawyers said this is an issue also faced by copyright owners on platforms such as YouTube, or Instagram, where uploads of previously taken down copies keep popping up online.

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