On Thursday, the highest European court ruled that Austria cannot force Google, Meta, and TikTok to pay millions in fines if they fail to delete hate speech from their popular social media platforms.
Austria has tried to hold platforms accountable for hate speech and other illegal content after passing a law in 2021 requiring tech giants to publish reports every six months detailing content. According to the European Union’s recently adopted Digital Services Act, Austrian law seeks to impose fines—up to $10.69 million, Reuters reported-for failure to address illegal or harmful content.
However, shortly after Austria tried to enforce the law, Google, Meta, and TikTok—each with EU operations based in Ireland—challenged it in an Austrian court. Tech companies insist that Austria’s law conflicts with race EU law that states that platforms are subject to laws only in the EU member states where they are established.
Because there is still a lot of legal uncertainty as to how EU member states can regulate works originating from other member states, the Austrian court asked the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) to measure.
Finally, the CJEU agreed with the technology companies, deciding that the language of the Austrian law is general and abstract, that it can apply to various platforms without distinction. The court’s ruling said that allowing Austria to enforce the law risks restricting the “free movement of information society services” between EU member states and increasing “self-reliance” between member states.
The ruling represents a major victory for platforms trying to comply with the ever-difficult consumer protections recently implemented in the EU. According to Reuters, the CJEU judgment cannot be appealed. Next, the Australian court will complete its legal proceedings, possibly sealing a victory for the platforms and setting an important initiative that could protect the platforms from other potential legal attacks as EU regulators continue to attack Big Tech.
Meta and TikTok did not immediately respond to Ars’ request for comment on the ruling, but a Google spokesperson confirmed that the ruling will inform how Google’s trust and safety efforts are managed in the EU.
“We are pleased with today’s decision, which reaffirms the importance of EU nationalism,” a Google spokesperson told Ars. “We will investigate the ruling and continue to invest in the trust and safety of our users across our platforms.”