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Freedom of speech can be distasteful

16 July 2010

MPs, including David Cameron, roundly condemned tributes left on a Facebook group page dedicated to the gunman Raoul Moat and asked for the group, which also criticises the police, to be taken down. Whilst the offending page has now been taken down by its creator, Facebook themselves declined to do so on the grounds it encouraged public debate. They do have a system in place to address complaints about specific offensive material.

The E-Commerce Directive creates certain protections from liability for illegal material that appears on websites, although these protections have certain exemptions. This includes where the website is put on notice of unlawful material, at which point the ‘host’ must act expeditiously to remove it.

It is arguable whether Facebook’s approach brings it strictly within the protection offered by the Directive. But is it more important for Facebook to be seen to be promoting freedom of speech, even when it could be distasteful?

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