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Austrian court rules Facebook must delete ‘hate postings’

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Facebook must remove postings deemed as hate speech, an Austrian court has ruled, in a legal victory for campaigners who want to force social media companies to combat online “trolling”.

The case – brought by Austria’s Green party over insults to its leader – has international ramifications as the court ruled the postings must be deleted across the platform and not just in Austria, a point that had been left open in an initial ruling.

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The case comes as legislators around Europe are considering ways of forcing Facebook, Google, Twitter and others to rapidly remove hate speech or incitement to violence.

Germany’s cabinet approved a plan last month to fine social networks up to 50 million euros ($55 million) if they fail to remove such postings quickly and the European Union is considering new EU-wide rules.

Facebook’s lawyers in Vienna declined to comment on the ruling, which was distributed by the Greens and confirmed by a court spokesman, and Facebook did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Strengthening the earlier ruling, the Viennese appeals court ruled on Friday that Facebook must remove the postings against Greens leader Eva Glawischnig as well as any verbatim repostings, and said merely blocking them in Austria without deleting them for users abroad was not sufficient.

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The court added it was easy for Facebook to automate this process. It said, however, that Facebook could not be expected to trawl through content to find posts that are similar, rather than identical, to ones already identified as hate speech.

The Greens hope to get the ruling strengthened further at Austria’s highest court. They want the court to demand Facebook remove similar – not only identical – postings, and to make it identify holders of fake accounts.

The Greens also want Facebook to pay damages, which would make it easier for individuals in similar cases to take the financial risk of taking legal action.

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“Facebook must put up with the accusation that it is the world’s biggest platform for hate and that it is doing nothing against this,” said Green parliamentarian Dieter Brosz.

Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg has said hate speech has no place on the platform and the company has published a policy paper on how it wants to work against false news.

(Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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Quantum dots that light up TVs could be used for brain research

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While many people love colorful photos of landscapes, flowers or rainbows, some biomedical researchers treasure vivid images on a much smaller scale – as tiny as one-thousandth the width of a human hair.

To study the micro world and help advance medical knowledge and treatments, these scientists use fluorescent nano-sized particles.

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That fluorescence allows scientists to use them to study hidden or otherwise cryptic parts of cells, organs and other structures.

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If impeachment comes to the Senate – 5 questions answered

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Editor’s note: If the House of Representatives concludes its impeachment inquiry by passing articles of impeachment of President Donald Trump, attention will turn to the Senate. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, is known as a master of the Senate’s rules, and has been raising campaign donations with ads touting the power he would have over impeachment proceedings. Constitutional scholar Sarah Burns from the Rochester Institute of Technology answers some crucial questions already arising about what McConnell might be able to do, to either slow down the process or speed things along.

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Andrew Yang’s ‘freedom dividend’ echoes a 1930s basic income proposal that reshaped Social Security

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Entrepreneur and political novice Andrew Yang is hoping a wild gambit will help him win the Democratic presidential nomination: give 10 American families US$1,000 a month.

The announcement of a test run of his signature universal basic income proposal, which Yang argues is necessary to counter automation’s threat to millions of American jobs, garnered cheers from the student audience at the September debate and gave his candidacy a boost. At least half a million people have entered Yang’s basic income raffle.

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