Internet Law

Journalist accuses Facebook of censorship after posts deleted

WDR’s chat-show host and journalist, Jürgen Domain has accused Facebook of censorship after his posts and the comments on the posts were deleted. In two posts the journalist criticised Catholic Martin Lohmann’s appearance on Günther Jauch and the election of new Pope, Mario Bergoglio.

The journalist went public with his accusations on his Facebook profile. He also published exerts from the post about Pope Francis I.

After asking several “critical questions” Domain wrote, “Most people grow with and into their office. We could end up being surprised by Francis. Let’s hope so! Let’s give him a chance! In six months’ or at the latest a years’ time we will know more.”

Facebook supposedly deleted these posts, together with the comments on them before sending Domain an e-mail informing him that his posts did not conform to Facebook’s policies. Domain was not told which policy he is supposed to have breached.

Freedom of opinion and censorship

Domain alleged that “fanatical church followers” took exception to his posts and that Facebook “caved” under the pressure. He accused Facebook of violating his freedom of opinion with undue censorship. Reacting to the accusations, Facebook spokeswoman, Tina Kulow, published an apology.

Are the accusations of censorship justified?

It should be born in mind that Facebook monitors posts electronically. Given the billions of worldwide users of Facebook, it would be impossible to monitor the posts using an editorial team. The consequence of this is that posts are sometimes deleted automatically.

It should also be remembered that Facebook’s policies are based on American moral values, which can often appear prude and pedantic to a European. Facebook users should, however, abide by Facebook’s user terms. If not, it can occur that entire accounts are deleted without warning.

As far as violations of the right to freedom of opinion are concerned, rights to freedom of expression in Germany are normally only exercisable against the state. This means that private individuals can exercise censorship.

Conclusions for businesses

Taking all this into consideration, businesses should carefully assess how much money they wish to invest in developing a Facebook profile, as with one click an account could be deleted.

Christian Solmecke is a partner at the law firm WILDE BEUGER SOLMECKE. He is the author of numerous legal publications in the area of internet and IT law. He is also an associate lecturer for social media law at the Cologne University of Applied Sciences.

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