Alice Weidel: German court sides with AfD leader in Facebook suit | News | DW | 27.04.2018
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Alice Weidel: German court sides with AfD leader in Facebook suit

The rights of AfD's co-leader Alice Weidel were infringed upon by a vulgar Facebook comment at her expense, a Hamburg court has decided. While Facebook hid the comment from German users, there was still a way to see it.

A court in Hamburg has ruled in favor of Alice Weidel, a senior politician of the far-right AfD party, who sued Facebook over an insulting comment published by a user on their platform.

The comment clearly violated the politician's rights, the judge said on Friday.

In September, a user identified as Sanda G. left a German-language comment about Weidel under a Facebook post linking to a Huffington Post article. The article was reporting on an alleged statement by Weidel — herself a lesbian — against gay marriage in Germany.

​​The Facebook user dubbed Weidel a "Nazi" in a vulgar comment and also insulted her over her sexual orientation. According to Weidel's lawyer Joachim Steinhöfel, Facebook refused to remove the comment even after other users reported it. It was only hidden from view when Weidel herself contacted the platform in January.

Read more: Is it illegal to call someone a Nazi?

Limits of national court?

However, Facebook only blocked the comment for users with a German IP address. Users could bypass the restriction by using a VPN tunnel that allows a computer in Germany to access the content from a server in a different country.

The Hamburg court confirmed the comment was still visible via a VPN tunnel. The court also said it would decide on Monday whether or not to order an injunction against Facebook that would force it to close this gap.

Read more: Talking with LGBT supporters of the populist party

Facebook attorney Martin Munz admitted the comment was in "in poor taste," but said he was unable to access it through a VPN. Munz also pointed out ramifications for freedom of speech if Facebook is compelled to enforce a decision taken by a national court on an international level.

"Facebook is not a superjudge," he said.

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