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ECtHR / Application no. 64569/09 / Judgment

Delfi AS v Estonia

Policy area:
Justice, freedom and security
Deciding Body type:
European Court of Human Rights
Deciding Body:
European Court of Human Rights - Grand Chamber
Decision date:

Key facts of the case:

  1. The applicant company is the owner of Delfi, an Internet news portal that published up to 330 news articles a day at the time of the lodging of the application. Delfi is one of the largest news portals on the Internet in Estonia. It publishes news in Estonian and Russian in Estonia and also operates in Latvia and Lithuania.
  2. At the material time, at the end of the body of the news articles there were the words “add your comment” and fields for comments, the commenter’s name and his or her e-mail address (optional). Below these fields there were buttons labelled “publish the comment” and “read comments”. The part for reading comments left by others was a separate area which could be accessed by clicking on the “read comments” button. The comments were uploaded automatically and were, as such, not edited or moderated by the applicant company. The articles received about 10,000 readers’ comments daily, the majority posted under pseudonyms.
  3. Nevertheless, there was a system of notice-and-take-down in place: any reader could mark a comment as leim (an Estonian word for an insulting or mocking message or a message inciting hatred on the Internet) and the comment was removed expeditiously. Furthermore, there was a system of automatic deletion of comments that included certain stems of obscene words. In addition, a victim of a defamatory comment could directly notify the applicant company, in which case the comment was removed immediately.
  4. The applicant company had made efforts to advise users that the comments did not reflect its own opinion and that the authors of comments were responsible for their content.

Results (sanctions) and key consequences of the case:

The Court holds, by fifteen votes to two, that there has been no violation of Article 10 of the Convention.