Offensive Online Comments: Human Rights Court Ruling

June 15, 2015

In a wide-ranging judgment of 162 paragraphs (and appendices and numerous footnotes), the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights has given its judgment in Delfi AS v Estonia. You can read the full judgment here.

The Grand Chamber has (by a majority of 15 to 2) supported the Chamber judgment that there had been no violation of the ECHR, Article 10 when the State imposed liability on an online news portal for highly offensive comments left by readers of a news item the portal published. In essence, the Grand Chamber takes the view that the news portal could have done more, in terms of filtering and moderating, where various clues to the odious nature of the comments were present.

The judgment will be seen as a blow to free speech and may have important implications for those hosting online comment. It may, in particular, require a reappraisal of the level of filtering or automatic blocking of comments that can be applied.

More informed comment will follow and SCL readers are invited to contribute by emailing with views.