A court in southern Germany has dismissed a lawsuit by a Syrian refugee demanding an injunction against Facebook to remove hate posts related to him on the social networking website.
The district court in Wuerzburg said in its preliminary ruling on Tuesday that Facebook could not be forced to remove posts suggesting that Anas Modamani was linked to terrorist attacks in Germany and elsewhere.
Modamani, along with several other refugees, took famous selfies with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the height of the refugee crisis in 2015. The images were then used online to suggest that the Syrian refugee was behind terrorist attacks, including a bombing at Brussels Airport in March 2016 and an arson attack on a homeless man in Berlin in December.
Facebook has measures in place which flags users and blocks defamatory posts, including those shared about Modamani on anonymous accounts. However, the plaintiff had sought a court order to force Facebook to use geo-blocking technology and actively identify and remove hate posts about him.
The Wuerzburg court said Facebook is neither a "perpetrator nor a participant" and acted simply as a hosting provider. It said the internet company had no responsibility under European law to pre-emotively block offensive content.
Modamani's lawyer expressed his disappointment at the ruling, saying Germany must do more to force Facebook to delete hate-filled content on its own accord.
"We have to decide whether we want to accept that Facebook can basically do whatever it wants or whether German law, and above all the removal of illegal contents in Germany, will be enforced. If we want that we need new laws," Chan-jo Jun told a news conference after the court session.
Facebook issued a statement hailing the court ruling as a proof of the fact that the company had acted quickly to block access to postings related to Modamani once they had been reported by his lawyer. It expressed concern about the predicament created for the Syrian refugee.