No article 10 breach where news site liable for UGC, says Human Rights Court

The owner of an online news portal had been found liable by the Estonian courts for defamatory user-generated comments posted on that portal, even though it removed the comments promptly upon notification. The European Court of Human Rights has held, pending any appeal to the Grand Chamber, that the Estonian courts’ decision was within Estonia’s margin of appreciation and was not a violation of article 10 ECHR (the right to freedom of expression).

The applicant, Delfi, owns one of Estonia’s largest internet news portals, publishing up to 330 articles a day. Readers could post comments under the articles. Delfi received about 10,000 comments daily. It did not require posters to register or give a real name or an email address. The majority of comments were posted under pseudonyms. Delfi did not pre- or post-moderate comments.

The website featured (i) a disclaimer advising posters that they, not Delfi, were responsible for their comments; (ii) an automatic filter for certain swear words; and (iii) a notice-and-take-down system that allowed readers to click on a button to request that a comment be removed, and the comment was removed quickly by Delfi…

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