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Court backs Sweden over blog’s Nazi jibe

Human rights judges have agreed with Swedish authorities who declared that a non-profit association was not liable for an anonymous comment posted on its blog.

In its 9 March decision in the case of Pihl v. Sweden (application no. 74742/14) the European Court of Human Rights has unanimously declared the application inadmissible. The decision is final.

The applicant Rolf Anders Daniel Pihl, had been the subject of a defamatory online comment, which had been published anonymously on a blog. The applicant made a civil claim against the small non-profit association which ran the blog, claiming that it should be held liable for the third-party comment.

The claim was rejected by the Swedish courts and the Chancellor of Justice.

The applicant complained to the court that by failing to hold the association liable, the authorities had failed to protect his reputation and had violated his right to respect for his private life.

The court held that the complaint was without merit. In cases such as this, a balance must be struck between an individual’s right to respect for his private life, and the right to freedom of expression enjoyed by an individual or group running an internet portal.

In light of the circumstances of this case, the national authorities had struck a fair balance when refusing to hold the association liable for the anonymous comment. In particular, this was because: although the comment had been offensive, it had not amounted to hate speech or an incitement to violence; it had been posted on a small blog run by a non-profit association; it had been taken down the day after the applicant had made a complaint; and it had only been on the blog for around nine days.

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