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May 9, 2017

Another Court Seeks World Domination

An Austrian appeals court has held that Facebook must remove posts that insult the leader of the country's Green Party, Eva Glawischnig, not only in Austria but worldwide.

The court's ruling is similar to France's efforts to have its courts' rulings ordering removal of search result links to online material under the European Union's "right to be forgotten" apply not only to versions of Google and other websites targeted or accessible in France or other countries of the E.U., but to all websites worldwide, including in the United States.

Within in the U.S., the imposition of such content restrictions would be a prior restraint that almost certainly would violate the First Amendment. But other countries routinely limit certain types of speech under their own laws. The government of Thailand, for example, is blocking a video of the new king walking through a German shopping mall. Meanwhile, India's Supreme Court has ordered to media not to cover a local judge's reaction to his jailing after he was found in contempt for making allegations against several other judges.

The problem with such efforts is that residents of these countries can evade the restrictions and access the content by using the versions of Google and other sites directed at other countries: so rather than using www.google.co.th, the Google site directed at Thailand, Thai users could access forbidden material through another Google site. To combat this, Thailand is requiring Google to use geo-blocking to prevent this (although sophisticated users can circumnavigate this).

Of course, each country has its own laws and notions of what is acceptable online, and it is perfectly acceptable for them to impose the restrictions permitted by their laws within their borders. But the attempts to impose these restrictions abroad must be opposed.. If every nation were to impose these restrictions internationally, content online would be reduced to only include content that passes muster everywhere. That may be a result that many governments would like, but it would be a terrible thing for the world.

h/t Media Law Resource Center

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