Corporate law | OLG on termination of a Facebook account

Corporate law | OLG on termination of a Facebook account

Corporate law | The Karlsruhe Higher Regional Court has ruled in a judgment (case reference: 10 U 17/20) that Facebook may only terminate a user account without prior warning in exceptional cases.

In the specific case, Facebook deleted several of the plaintiff’s posts relating to the so-called “Identitarian Movement” in 2019 and temporarily blocked the user account. After another post by the plaintiff in January 2020, his account was permanently blocked. Facebook cited the plaintiff’s violations of the terms of use in connection with the “Community Standards”, which prohibit the support of “hate organizations”. While the plaintiff was unsuccessful at first instance, the Higher Regional Court of Karlsruhe largely upheld his appeal for an injunction to stop the deletions and temporary account blocks and to reactivate his user account. With regard to the deletion of posts and the temporary blocking of the account, the court found that these measures were inadmissible under Facebook’s General Terms and Conditions.

It is possible for social network providers to require users to comply with objective and verifiable communication standards in their terms and conditions, as well as to delete posts and block network access. However, the terms and conditions must also ensure that the user is informed of the removal of the post immediately afterwards and of any blocking of the user account in advance, and that the user is given a reason for this. In particular, the user must have the opportunity to comment. As Facebook’s terms and conditions do not meet these requirements, the Higher Regional Court of Karlsruhe considers the removal and blocking clauses contained therein to be invalid. Posts can only be deleted and the account blocked if criminal content is published. The court also ruled that the termination of the user contract by the social network was invalid as there was no prior warning. Such a warning is only dispensable in very limited exceptional cases, for example in the case of particularly serious breaches of contract or the obvious futility of a warning. However, there were no such indications in the specific case.

Source of information: Press office of the Higher Regional Court of Karlsruhe, press release no. 3/22 dated 04.02.2022


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