Twitter does not have to remove all messages in which a Dutch village is linked to conspiracy theories about paedophiles and satanic cults, judges in The Hague have decided.
The local council of Bodegraven-Reeuwijk had taken Twitter to court over the messages which centre on stories about satanic paedophile networks and ritual child murder in the town, and which have been circulated by conspiracy theorists since 2020.
Twitter said during the hearing last month that the council’s demands were ‘disproportionate’. The company has done everything it could to remove the conspiracy theorists’ stories but it would be going too far to require Twitter itself to check all posts before they are published, the company’s lawyer said.
The social media company has already removed the account of conspiracy theorists Micha K, Wouter R and Joost K, who had spread the messages in the first place.
Going too far
The court said that Twitter had done enough to remove unlawful content about the town. ‘Twitter is not required to remove tweets from others on its own instigation,’ the court said in its ruling. ‘In this case, that would be going too far.’
The court said that not all content is unlawful and that it accepted Twitter’s position that a good filter would be impossible to make. However, Twitter should respond directly to concrete council requests to have content removed, the court said.
Bodegraven’s lawyer Cees van de Sanden said he still had to study the verdict in detail. ‘These sort of platforms cannot be a free-for-all,’ he said. ‘If you market a car with problems, the factory which made it cannot say that the issues cannot be solved.’
The three men who spread the theories were earlier also ordered to pay €215,000 in damages to the local authority after it was forced to use its emergency powers to ban them from the graveyard and bring in permanent security.
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