Political Correctness Trumps Free Speech…European Court holds newspaper website responsible for unread user comments

Posted: 18 June, 2015 in EU, Law Court Censorship, Political Correctness
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European court buildings The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has decided that Delfi, an Estonia-based news website, holds responsibility for defamatory comments made by anonymous readers.Access, a digital rights organization, weighed in on the decision, calling it a worrying setback. Furthermore, the organization argues that the ruling contradicts the European Union’s E-Commerce Directive, which protects intermediaries that employ notice-and-takedown mechanisms to deal with user comments.

Access noted that Delfi’s case received disappointing rulings from other courts, even though Estonia has adopted the EU’s E-Commerce Directive. Access says that it denounces the ECHR’s ruling, stating that it creates a worrying precedent that could force websites to censor content.

The ECHR defended its ruling by citing the extreme nature of the comments which the court considered to amount to hate speech, the fact that they were published on a professionally-run and commercial news website.

The Center for Democracy & Technology notes:

Holding content hosts liable for their users’ speech is a shortcut to censorship for governments and private litigants who cannot easily identify an anonymous speaker or seek a judgment against her. The threat of liability creates strong incentives for content hosts to preview and approve all user comments, and to censor with a broad brush, limit access to their services, and restrict users’ ability to communicate freely over their platforms. In a world where all online speech is intermediated by web servers, news portals, social media platforms, search engines, and ISPs, the collateral consequences of intermediary liability are potentially enormous.

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