In a judgment handed down on 19 March 2019 (Høiness v. Norway, ref no. 43624/14), the European Court of Human Rights (“ECHR”) reflected, among other things, on the question of personal privacy protection and online hate speech.

In the case at hand, the court examined whether a news website had ensured sufficient monitoring of a message board where inappropriate comments were posted under editorial content. The plaintiff, who is known to the public in Norway, believed that those comments amounted to serious sexual harassment.

The court concluded that the steps taken by the message board operator to prevent and remove defamatory comments were sufficient because (i) the message board was in no way connected to the news part on the site and, thus, could not be seen as an extension of editorial content; (ii) the message board operator employed moderators to monitor board content; (iii) the message board included a button allowing readers to flag inappropriate content; (iv) the site administrators also responded to reports submitted, for example, by e-mail and (v) any flagged messages deemed inappropriate were deleted within minutes of a report and related comments were deleted at the request of the message board moderator.

In assessing the general measures taken by the operator of the news site and message board, the court found that both the site and its editor had acted reasonably. In doing so, they had also provided detailed guide about how operators can ensure sufficient control over their message boards.

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