An Italian court has ruled that Facebook must restore the page of the neo-fascist Casa Pound party, highlighting the impact of the social media behemoth on Italy’s politics. So far, the US tech giant has just shrugged it off.
A civil court in Rome has ruled that the decision by the California-based company infringes upon no less than a fundamental principle of equality of political parties enshrined in the national constitution.
By being banned by Facebook, a party is automatically “excluded from (or severely limited in its access to) the Italian political debate,” the court said, adding that “almost all” Italian political forces actively use the platform to spread messages or promote their political ideas. The ruling further noted that “relationship between Facebook and its users” cannot be equaled to a relationship between two private entities precisely due to the social network’s “special position.”
The ruling does not mention the party’s Instagram account, which is also owned by Facebook.
In an apparent attempt to encourage the social media giant to comply with its ruling and restore the page, the court also demanded the company pay “a penalty of € 800 ($ 890) for each day of the court order violation,” and ordered Facebook to pay € 15,000 ($ 16,700) in legal fees.
Facebook blocked the Casa Pound page, which had 240,000 followers, citing violations of its “hate speech” rules in September. Since then, it has made it clear that it had no intention to restore the account.
“Persons or organizations that spread hatred or attack others on the basis of who they are will not have a place on Facebook and Instagram. The accounts we removed today violate this policy and will no longer be present on Facebook or Instagram,” a Facebook spokesperson told Italy’s ANSA news agency at the time.
Following the verdict, the company only said that it is aware of the court’s decision and is “reviewing it carefully.” So far, there have been no precedents of Facebook being successfully forced into restoring blocked pages through legal action.
Casa Pound was named after the 20th-century American poet Ezra Pound, known for his fascist sympathies. The party claims to advocate a “democratic” version of Fascism, but has been repeatedly accused of promoting violence and racism. Lately, it has boosted its profile by leading anti-immigrant campaigns on social media.
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