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German court imposes rules on Facebook when blocking accounts

Facebook has the right to delete contributions and to block users of its service under certain conditions, Germany's top court ruled on Thursday.

Facebook has the right to delete contributions and to block users of its service under certain conditions, Germany’s top court ruled on Thursday.

Users must be informed ahead of time that their accounts are to be blocked and must be given an opportunity to offer an explanation of their activities. In the event of deletion of a contribution, they must be informed after the event at least.

The ruling refers to the global “community standards” by means of which the social media service seeks to block discriminatory and offensive content. Not all the contributions that Facebook prohibits are illegal under German law.

In the two cases before the court, a man and a woman had written derogatory remarks about Muslims and immigrants. The court saw these as covered by freedom of expression under German law.

It ruled that Facebook had to reinstate the contributions and that it may not remove them again as the rules did not apply at the time.

Reacting to the ruling, Facebook welcomed the fact that it was fundamentally justified in removing content according to its own guidelines.

“We do not tolerate hate speech and strive to remove impermissible content from Facebook,” a Facebook spokesman said. The company would study the ruling carefully to be able to act against hate speech in German in the future, he added.

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