In a major blow to social media platforms, the European Union's top court on Thursday ruled that Facebook may be asked to remove harmful content globally.
The ruling of the European Court of Justice may have significant implications in expanding content takedowns from social media platforms.
The ruling came after a former Austrian politician sought an order to make Facebook remove a comment published by a user on that social network harmful to her reputation.
Mme Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek, who was a leader of Austria's Greens Party, wanted Facebook to block access to the content globally.
The ruling said that EU law does not preclude a host provider such as Facebook from being ordered to remove identical and, in certain circumstances, equivalent comments previously declared to be illegal.
In addition, EU law does not preclude such an injunction from producing effects worldwide, within the framework of the relevant international law which it is for member states to take into account.
The ruling said that Facebook is not liable for stored information if it has no knowledge of its illegal nature or if it acts expeditiously to remove or to disable access to that information as soon as it becomes aware of it.
"That exemption does not, however, prevent the host provider from being ordered to terminate or prevent an infringement, including by removing the illegal information or by disabling access to it," said the ruling.
"However, the directive prohibits any requirement for the host provider to monitor generally information which it stores or to seek actively facts or circumstances indicating illegal activity," it added.
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