Alphabet’s Google, Meta Platforms, and TikTok received support from Europe’s highest court in their battle against an Austrian law that mandates the removal of hate speech or potential fines of up to $10.69 million. This Austrian law, implemented in 2021, compels major tech companies to issue regular reports on illegal content, coinciding with global concerns regarding the proliferation of hateful posts.

In this illustration from November 2, 2021, we can see a 3D printed logo of Meta, the new rebrand of Facebook, displayed alongside the Google logo.

The European Union has also introduced the Digital Services Act (DSA), which imposes stricter responsibilities on major online platforms to combat illegal and harmful online content, with potential fines of up to 6% of their annual revenue.

Google, Meta, and TikTok contested the Austrian law in an Austrian court, arguing that it contradicts an EU regulation stating that online service providers are only bound by the regulations of the country where they are headquartered, while countries where they offer their services must abstain from enforcing their own laws.

These three corporations, which have their European headquarters in Ireland, contend that they should solely be subject to Irish regulations. In response, the Austrian court sought guidance from the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), which ruled in favor of the companies.

The judges stated that a EU member state cannot impose a broad and vague obligation on a communication platform provider established in another member state. Such a national approach goes against EU law, which upholds the free movement of information society services based on the principle of regulation in the Member State where the service originates. Google expressed its satisfaction with the ruling and emphasized the significance of the EU’s country of origin principle.

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They committed to studying the judgment further and maintaining their investments in the security and trust of their users on their platforms.

Meta and TikTok have not provided a response to email requests for comments. This decision made on Thursday is not open to further appeals.

The case reference is C-376/22 – Google Ireland and Others.

($1 = 0.9354 euros)

Reporting by Foo Yun Chee

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