The E.U. Orders Global Censorship of Comments Calling Austrian Politician a 'Corrupt Oaf'

Is there room for the entire world on this slippery slope?


Whatever you do, don't call Austrian Green Party politician Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek a "corrupt oaf" or "lousy traitor of the people" on Facebook. If you do, the European Union (E.U.) has ruled that Facebook can be forced to take your comments down, regardless of where you are in the world.

In all likelihood, you have no idea who Glawischnig-Piesczek even is, but you should definitely worry about today's ruling and how it impacts your ability to express your opinions about politicians online.

I blogged about this case back in June when the E.U. was first considering it. Glawischnig-Piesczek is a retired member of the European Parliament from Austria. In 2016, an Austrian magazine published a story online about her support for welfare for refugees. Apparently, one Facebook user did not appreciate her position and called her the terms mentioned above and declared the Greens to be a "fascist party."

These are all crudely expressed opinions, and they're obviously just opinions. Glawischnig-Piesczek, however, objected to these characterizations and asked Facebook to delete the comments. Facebook refused. So Glawischnig-Piesczek sued under Austria's defamation laws and won. The case then went up to the European Union to determine whether she had the power to demand that Facebook censor these "defamatory" comments from appearing on Facebook just in Austria, or worldwide.

Today, the European Court of Justice ruled that not only did Facebook have to take these posts down worldwide, it also has to remove content that duplicates or repeats any statements that have been deemed defamatory.

So, that means that if you're sharing this story, or The New York Times news coverage, and those quoted insults show up in the sharing text, Austria might force Facebook to take it down.

Amazingly, Glawischnig-Piesczek declared that this ruling is "a historic success for human rights against web giants."

It is nothing of the sort. This is political censorship of criticism against her. It wasn't a "web giant" who called her an oaf. It was a citizen of her country who disagreed with her position, and she didn't like it.

This is exactly why we need to resist folks like Sens. Josh Hawleys (R-Mo.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), who want the government to decide what social media companies can and must prohibit on their platforms. This is inevitably where it will end up: censoring speech that critiques those in power.

Read the ruling (which, notably, does not describe the defamatory statements in any way) here. It cannot be appealed. So whatever you do, don't try to make statements criticizing Glawischnig-Piesczek trend on social media. That would be very, very naughty of you.