Published on: November 10, 2023 at 15:40 IST
Alphabet’s Google, Meta Platforms, and TikTok have emerged victorious in a legal battle against an Austrian law mandating the removal of hate speech or facing fines of up to $10.69 million.
The decision, supported by Europe’s top court, marks a significant development in the ongoing debate over the responsibilities of tech giants in regulating online content.
The Austrian law, enacted in 2021, compelled major tech companies to regularly report on illegal content, reflecting global concerns about the proliferation of hate speech online.
In response, Google, Meta, and TikTok challenged the law in an Austrian court, arguing that it contradicted a European Union (EU) rule specifying that online service providers should adhere only to the regulations of the country where they are established.
The companies, with their European headquarters based in Ireland, contended that they should exclusively be subject to Irish rules. The Austrian court sought guidance from the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), which ultimately sided with Google, Meta, and TikTok.
The CJEU ruled that a member state cannot impose a general and abstract obligation on a communication platform provider established in another member state. Such an approach, the judges emphasized, goes against EU law, which upholds the free movement of information society services through the principle of control in the Member State of origin.
Google expressed satisfaction with the decision, emphasizing the importance of the EU’s country of origin principle. A Google spokesperson stated, “We are pleased with today’s decision which reaffirms the importance of the EU’s country of origin principle. We will study the judgment and continue to invest in the trust and safety of our users across our platforms.”
As of now, Meta and TikTok have not provided immediate responses to emails seeking comments on the ruling. Notably, Thursday’s decision is final and cannot be appealed, solidifying the companies’ position in this legal dispute.