In the case of Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek v Facebook Ireland Ltd (Case C-18/18), the Advocate General (AG) of the Court of Justice (CJEU) was asked to clarify the scope of the obligation that may be imposed on a host provider to remove illegal information. Article 15(1) of the e-Commerce Directive 2000/31/EC (the Directive) prohibits Member States from imposing a general monitoring obligation on host providers, and the CJEU considered whether that provision precludes a court, in the context of an injunction to remove notified illegal content, from ordering a host provider to seek and identify identical or equivalent illegal content. The CJEU also considered the territorial scope of a removal obligation, and whether removal could be ordered on a worldwide basis.
In his Opinion, AG Szpunar concluded that a host provider may be ordered to remove not only notified illegal content, but to seek and identify among the information disseminated by any user of that platform, information ‘identical’ to that which has been characterised as illegal by a court. In addition, a host provider may be ordered to seek and identify information ‘equivalent’ to that characterised as illegal, but only among the information disseminated by the original user, and not by any user. The AG also considered that since the Directive does not regulate the territorial scope of an obligation to remove information disseminated via a social network platform, it does not preclude a host provider from being ordered to remove such information on a worldwide basis. Whilst the AG’s Opinion is not binding on the CJEU, it will be of persuasive value.