Germany’s Federal Court Thursday ruled that Facebook’s deletion of racist comments and the blocking of some user accounts was done improperly and ordered the comments reinstated.
The ruling stems from incidents in 2018 in which two German Facebook users had certain posts deleted and their accounts temporarily suspended because the posts had violated Facebook’s community standards for hate speech. The posts in question attacked Muslim migrants to Germany as criminals. While lower courts had ruled in favor of Facebook, the Federal Court reversed those rulings, determining that the company’s community standards policy violated the users’ right to free expression.
Importantly, the court did not rule that Facebook cannot be allowed to moderate posts on its site, rather, the court ruled that the company must be more transparent about how it decides what violates its policies and what does not. The court further ruled that Facebook should have informed the users that their posts had been removed, and should have implemented a process by which the users could respond before being suspended.
The court concluded that Facebook was not entitled to delete the posts or suspend the accounts, and must therefore restore the posts and refrain from deleting them or blocking the accounts again. A spokesperson for Facebook said that the company welcomes the ruling as upholding the principle that the company is allowed to moderate and remove hate speech, and said that it would examine the ruling “to ensure we can continue to effectively remove hate speech in Germany.”