The European Court of Justice, the highest court of the European Union, ruled on Wednesday that courts of member countries can ask online platforms to monitor and eliminate defamatory content and restrict global access, AFP reported. The court ruled that European Union law “does not preclude” courts from ordering the “removal of information or to block access worldwide”.

The top court’s order came after a former leader of Austria’s Green Party, Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek, demanded that Facebook remove derogatory remarks about her from its platform. The politician had argued that the social networking site should delete the content in the country and curb global access to it, according to The New York Times.

The court also asked Facebook to determine the identity of those creating fake accounts to post vitriolic comments.

Ahead of the decision, critics had cautioned that allowing individual nations to remove content would curb freedom of speech. A worldwide ban such as this would also require using automated content filters that members of the civil society warned could lead to removal of genuine material as filters are unable to detect nuances.

“This judgment raises critical questions around freedom of expression and the role that internet companies should play in monitoring, interpreting and removing speech that might be illegal in any particular country,” Facebook said in a statement. The company claimed that the ruling had gone against the principle that one country did not have the right to impose its laws on freedom of speech on another.

Last week, the top court had said that Google was not legally bound to apply the European Union’s stringent laws.

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