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Is Facebook Doing Enough To Remove Hate Speech? Austrian Court Thinks Not, But This Ruling Should Change Things

9 May 2017, 12:47 pm EDT By Alexandra Burlacu Tech Times
An Austrian court just ordered Facebook to take down all posts deemed as hate speech, as well as all verbatim reposts. The ruling extends beyond Austrian borders, as it forces Facebook to remove hateful content worldwide.  ( Gerd Altmann | Pixabay )

Facebook is under fire again over the way it handles fake news, as an Austrian court just ruled the company must remove all posts considered to be hate speech.

The ruling doesn't refer to just local posts either — the Austrian court ordered Facebook to remove hateful content globally, which makes the ruling significant even beyond the country's borders.

Austria Takes Steps Against Facebook Hate Speech

Austria's Green party, which filed the case against Facebook over insulting posts about one of its leaders, shared the news of the ruling. A court spokesman also confirmed the court's decision to Reuters.

Last year, Austria's Green party argued that hateful posts found on Facebook were defamatory insults to one of its leaders, Eva Glawischnig. The posts were from a fake account on the social network and the party argued that Facebook failed to remove them despite several complaints.

The Commercial Court of Vienna ruled for a preliminary injunction back in December 2016, ordering Facebook to remove posts considered hateful under Austrian law.

Facebook appealed that ruling, but it now seems that it lost again. The appeals court just bolstered that original ruling, noting that Facebook has to take down both the original post and all verbatim reposts.

The Austrian court didn't indicate or acknowledge that the social network is responsible for removing other similar hate speech posts, but Reuters says the Green party wants to push for such a ruling by bringing the case to Austria's highest court.

The Green party also hopes to force the social network to identify the users who have created fake accounts and to pay damages for hateful posts spread through Facebook. The party argues that the potential for winning damages would serve as incentive for people to take legal action against Facebook, considering the costs involved.

Facebook Struggling With Hate Speech, Fake News And Abusive Content

Facebook has been having a tough time curating the content distributed on its platform and has gone under fire several times over hate speech, hoaxes, fake news, abusive posts and such others. The social network received heavy criticism in Europe and other markets worldwide over the way it handles such content and despite Facebook's efforts to handle it, it's an uphill battle.

In many cases, Facebook failed to remove disturbing content in due time, indicating that its content moderation systems are overwhelmed by the number of complaints and can't deal with them properly.

On the other hand, Facebook is not the only one struggling to fight fake news, hate speech and the like. Google has also been having trouble keeping fake news at bay and Twitter has seen its fair share of false or inaccurate posts as well.

Facebook, for its part, is ramping up its efforts to curb the trend and just last week it announced plans to hire 3,000 more employees to review flagged content, since its current team of 4,500 moderators can't keep up.

While commendable, however, hiring a few thousand more moderators seems like a drop in the ocean considering the nearly 2 billion Facebook users and the sheer volume of content they distribute on the platform.

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