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Twitter must also delete core-like violations

The Frankfurt am Main Regional Court has ruled: Affected persons can demand that Twitter delete false or defamatory tweets about them. Twitter must also remove analogous comments with an identical core of the statement as soon as it becomes aware of the specific violation of personality rights.

In September 2022, various comments appeared on Twitter in which it was claimed, contrary to the truth, that the anti-Semitism commissioner of the state of Baden-Württemberg had “a closeness to pedophilia” and that he had “had a fling.” It was also spread about him that he was involved in “anti-Semitic scandals” and that he was “part of an anti-Semitic pack.”

The competent press chamber of the Frankfurt am Main Regional Court determined in summary proceedings that these defamatory allegations were untrue. The designation as an anti-Semite is initially an expression of opinion. However, it was unlawful, at least in the chosen context, because it did not contribute to the formation of public opinion and was recognizably aimed at creating a mood against the anti-Semitism commissioner in an emotionalizing form.

After the anti-Semitism commissioner demanded the removal of these comments, Twitter should have immediately ceased and desisted their dissemination. In addition, the Board ruled:

“The injunction takes effect not only when a statement is repeated word for word, but also when the messages contained therein are republished in spirit.”

And further:

“The statements are not prohibited in any context. Only those comments are affected which are to be regarded as equivalent and which, despite certain deviations, have an identical core of utterance.”

This would also not impose a general monitoring obligation on Twitter with regard to its approximately 237 million users. A duty to examine exists only with regard to the specific infringement of the right of personality complained of.

“German law requires every party obligated by a cease-and-desist order to determine for itself whether the characteristic of the specific form of infringement is expressed in a variation and is thus similar to the core. Twitter is thus in no other situation than when a specific infringement is reported. In this case, too, Twitter must examine whether or not this infringement requires deletion.”

However, the Board deemed admissible the statement of a user according to which the anti-Semitism commissioner of the state of Baden-Württemberg was included in the list of the biggest anti-Semites worldwide published annually by the Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. Regardless of whether inclusion on this list is justified, information about it should be provided. The anti-Semitism officer would have to defend himself against this in the public battle of opinion.

The judgment (Case No. 2-03 O 325/22) is not final. It can be appealed to the Higher Regional Court of Frankfurt am Main. However, the operative part corresponds to the usual decisions in the field of statements and competition law, which is why a divergent decision by the Frankfurt Higher Regional Court cannot be assumed.

Marian Härtel

Marian Härtel

Marian Härtel is a lawyer and entrepreneur specializing in copyright law, competition law and IT/IP law, with a focus on games, esports, media and blockchain.

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