A Hamburg court sided with the nationalist party AfD in their complaint against social media giant Facebook. Just as in the US on Twitter, conservative and nationalist parties in Europe often have the impression that when it comes to commentating, the deck is not really stacked in their favour. A judge in Hamburg agreed with this judgment in what could be the first of a series of wins for nationalist parties in Europe against social media.
Although conservative voices are immediately blocked or ‘shadowbanned’ when they allegedly trample the rights of anyone, when this happens in their disfavour, social media often lets those comments continue on their sites.
Such was the case for Ms Alice Weidel, the co-leader of Germany’s AfD (Alternative fur Deutschland) who was called a ‘Nazi Lesbian’ on Facebook. When Ms Weidel complained to Facebook about this comment, the Silicon Valley social media giant indeed blocked the comment from being seen by German users, but still allowed it for anyone else around the world.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">A court in Hamburg ruled in favor of <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/AfD?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#AfD</a> co-leader Alice <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Weidel?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Weidel</a> who sued <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Facebook?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Facebook</a> over an insulting comment published by a user on their platform and which was only blocked for users with a German IP address / <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/farright?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#farright</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/populism?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#populism</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/socialmedia?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#socialmedia</a><a href="https://t.co/9L9FlbymBd">https://t.co/9L9FlbymBd</a></p>— Ioannis E Kolovos (@ioannisekolovos) <a href="https://twitter.com/ioannisekolovos/status/989915989428097024?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">April 27, 2018</a></blockquote>
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In fact, according to Ms Weidel's lawyer, Mr Joachim Steinhöfel, Facebook refused to remove the comment even after other users had already reported it. It was only hidden from view when Weidel herself contacted the platform in January.
Meanwhile Facebook attorney Mr Martin Munz admitted that the comment was made in "in poor taste," but claimed that it was difficult to impose the freedom of speech laws in Germany in combination with their laws on the protection of privacy if Facebook is compelled to enforce a decision taken by a national court on an international level, in other words, Mr Zuckerberg claims that the internationality of Facebook allows it to supersede national legislation.
Mr Munz: "Facebook is not a superjudge."
The case will now serve as a legal precedent for any future comments on social media in Germany against the AfD.