In its recent decision for the case Google Ireland and Others (C-376/22), the European Court of Justice addressed Austria’s attempt to combat illegal content on the Internet by introducing a law in 2021. This law mandated both domestic and foreign communication platform providers to establish mechanisms for reporting and verifying potentially illegal content.
The Court of Justice ruled that Austria’s national approach, subjecting communication platform providers from other Member States to general and abstract obligations, is contrary to the e-Commerce Directive, which aims to ensure the free movement of such services between Member States. In particular, the Austrian discipline was held to be in breach of country-of-origin principle.
While Member States have the authority to take specific measures for public policy, health, security, or consumer protection, these measures must be notified to the European Commission and the Member State of origin. However, the Court emphasizes that measures of a general and abstract nature, applicable without distinction to any provider, cannot be adopted by Member States other than the state of origin. Such measures would undermine the Directive’s principle of control and erode mutual trust between Member States, violating the principle of mutual recognition.
The consequences of this judgment are significant. Allowing Member States to impose general and abstract obligations on communication platform providers established in other states would jeopardize the regulatory powers of the providers’ home Member States, create legal discrepancies, and hinder the freedom to provide services. This ruling reinforces the importance of upholding the country-of-origin principle for the proper functioning of the internal market.
To read the judgment, please click on the following link.