By: Ruaridh Owens


Strasbourg Court affirms the importance of anonymity online – Ruaridh Owens

23 February 2022 by

On 7 December 2021, the European Court of Human Rights (the “Court”) published its judgment in Standard Verlagsgesellschaft MBH v Austria (No.3) regarding anonymity online. The Court found that the Austrian courts had violated the applicant’s right to freedom of expression by requiring the applicant to disclose the identities of those who had posted allegedly defamatory comments on its website. The Court’s judgment is a notable development of its case law regarding freedom of expression on the internet. 

Legal and factual background

The applicant is the publisher of the Austrian Der Standard daily newspaper published in print, digitally and online. At the end of each online article, registered users can post comments anonymously. When registering, users are warned that the applicant may disclose their data if required to do so by law. Users also accept the applicant’s Community Guidelines stating that users are responsible for their comments and that personal attacks, threats, abuse, or defamatory statements are prohibited. All comments are screened by a keyword identification programme before they can be posted. The applicant also operates a “notice and take down” system via which users can trigger a manual editorial review of comments by using a “report” button. 


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