Saturday 12 October 2019

Free Speech on the Internet: the Empire Strikes Back

'The former Belgian prime minister’s choice of the word “empire” — with its connotations of conquest — was unfortunate. The EU is an empire by invitation. Nobody is forced to join. And, despite the difficulties of Brexit, any member is free to leave. It would be more accurate to say that the EU can and should aspire to be a superpower — one of four or five major global powers, capable of shaping the world order. That aspiration is eminently achievable. Indeed, in important respects, it has already been achieved. Last week provided an interesting illustration when the European Court of Justice ruled that individual countries can demand that Facebook take down defamatory content, on a global basis. The ECJ ruling was made in response to a complaint from an Austrian politician — and prompted an immediate and concerned response from Facebook. If this had just been a ruling by an Austrian court, the Californian internet giant would have been able to brush it off. But the ECJ has sway over a market of more than 500m people — compared with the 9m in Austria.'
Many do not recognise the European Union as an empire that is easy to leave, but let's leave that aside 

Gideon Rachman, writing in the Financial Times on October 7, 2019, rejoiced that criticisms of politicians on Facebook can now be banned worldwide by courts in European Union countries. 

Although a journalist he is pleased about restrictions on free speech. Many journalists these days are. I heard an FT man deplore 'breaches of privacy' by the Daily Mail.

This is the story about Facebook. On April 3, 2016, a Facebook user posted a news article with the headline,
“Greens: Guaranteed Minimum Income for Refugees Should Stay”
which quoted Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek, who was then spokeswoman for the Austrian Green Party.

Someone commented on it according to a court document, which is privileged and therefore I can quote,
“Lousy traitor. This corrupt klutz has not earned a single penny by honest work in her entire life, but has blown our tax money on these invaders. Finally ban this green fascist party.”
Mrs. Glawischnig-Piesczek then went to court and won a case for defamation. Facebook responded by blocking access to the post from within Austria, but not beyond Austria's borders. 

The  Austrian Supreme Court made a request to the European Court of Justice, which nine days ago decided that an Austrian court could order that posts that defame Mrs. Glawischnig-Piesczek be banned worldwide. 

That includes in the USA, which has lax defamation laws and a constitutional guarantee of free speech and where all sorts of things that would be illegal in Europe, Canada and many other places can legally be published.

The political and legal consequences of this case will be huge.


  1. The European Union detests Freedom of Speech - but then so does the "liberal" elite in both Britain and the United States (and everywhere else), "liberalism" has come to mean just about the opposite of what people such as Prime Minister Gladstone believed. The European Union and its courts (which include now the, originally separate, Human Rights Court) is utterly controlled by the "liberal" elite - the bureaucrats and "Crony Capitalist" enterprises which the "FT" represents.

    "Easy to get out of" - we voted for independence more than three years ago and NOTHING HAS HAPPENED. My guess is that on the first of November E.U. boats will still be in British fishing grounds and E.U. regulations will all still be the law of this land.

  2. I start to fear that we may never leave. What is your opinion of Brenda, Lady Hale? No-one is more liberal than she.

  3. The United States must REJECT (not compromise at all - just reject) these legal claims. The First Amendment is clear - but what matters is what judges decide the cases, so to defend Freedom of Speech President Trump must be reelected - or the Democrats will appoint European style collectivist judges.