In a new judgment seen as a major blow to Facebook, Germany’s Hamburg Higher Regional Court ruled that Facebook deleted a post it did not approve of and blocked a user even though “there is no legal basis” for such actions.
The post in question was from the Catholic publicist Johann Joseph Görres (1776-1848), who wrote:
“There is no more good-natured, but also no more credulous people than the Germans. I never had to sow discord among them. I had only to stretch out my nets and they ran in like shy game. They choked each other and thought they were doing their duty. No other people on earth more foolish. No lie can be made up grossly enough: the Germans believe it. For a slogan given to them, they persecuted their compatriots with more bitterness than their real enemies.”
Facebook labeled the quote “hate speech” and a “violation of community standards.” The company then deleted the post and banned the user from the platform.
Instead of accepting the ban, the user reached out to Joachim Steinhöfel, a lawyer who specializes in free speech and freedom of expression issues in Germany. The court ruled in favor of the user, ordering Meta, the parent company of Facebook, to restore the post and the user’s account.
“According to the Hamburg Higher Regional Court, Facebook is a deliberate, serial breacher of the law. The IT giant is leveling freedom of expression on its platforms, disregarding the principles of the rule of law,” Steinhöfel told German tabloid newspaper Bild.
The lawyer is now calling for more government action against the company, saying, “Where is the legislature? Why does the Network Enforcement Act still exist? Why not think about a lump sum compensation per unjustified deletion and for each day of unlawful blocking?”