With a judgment dated December 11, 2019 (pdf), signed by Judge Stefania Garrisi, Facebook is forced to rehabilitate the page of CasaPound Italy and the personal profile of Davide Di Stefano, also setting the penalty for 800 days for each day of delay in the execution of this decision (at the moment, in fact, the page is not yet reactivated). These are the facts, whose interpretation, however, appears to be extremely complex, however, to be analyzed under a multiplicity of interpretative plans.
One thing is certain: we must try to remove political ideologies from this analysis, trying to ignore the meaning that any decision can have from a political point of view. We cannot ignore the fact that this question has to do with politics, because it is the parties themselves that define the affair as political: CasaPound Italia affirms it, the judge reaffirms it and Facebook will now have to take note. Something new will emerge from this story, relating to freedom of expression and above all the limits of freedom itself.
To understand the sentence (and the effort of partiality towards political ideology is recommended, otherwise it is not possible to weigh the sentence in its essence) it is necessary to start from the antecedent facts and from these considerations written in black and white by the Judge:
The prominent importance assumed by the Facebook service (or other social networks connected to it) is evident with reference to the implementation of essential cardinal principles such as the pluralism of political parties (49 Const.), To the point that the subject which is not present on Facebook is in fact excluded (or severely limited) from the Italian political debate, as evidenced by the fact that almost all of the Italian political exponents daily entrust political messages and the dissemination of ideas of their own movement to their Facebook page. It follows that the relationship between FACEBOOK and the user who intends to register for the service (or with the user already enabled to the service as in the case in question) cannot be assimilated to the relationship between any two private subjects, as one of the parties, precisely FACEBOOK , holds a special position: this special position means that FACEBOOK, in bargaining with users, must strictly adhere to compliance with constitutional and regulatory principles until it proves (with an assessment to be made through a phase of full knowledge) their violation by user.
The Judge, in short, attributes to Facebook a responsibility that goes beyond the simple relationship between private individuals, extending its function to a real social responsibility. "FACEBOOK is the respect for constitutional and legal principles", Continues the judge,"at the same time a condition and limit in the relationship with users who request access to their service". In fact, therefore, Facebook is forbidden to exclude a political party from the possibility of expressing itself on the platform, even if in violation of the policies, by virtue of the fact that the exclusion from the social network implies a reduction of the expressive spaces in a moment in which almost 3 billion people gravitate on the platform itself.
The ruling also dismantles one by one the thesis put forward by Facebook in addition to the simple violation of the policies: the social network would in fact have tried to demonstrate how CasaPound was guilty of "contents of incitement to hatred and violence through the promotion, in the Casapound pages, of the aims and purposes of the Association itself". In this respect, according to the Judge "it is not possible to assert the violation of the contractual rules by the applicant Association only because the goals of the Association itself, which operates legitimately in the panorama, have been promoted from its page
Italian politician since 2009".
In short, the Judge denies objective responsibilities which, arising from the behavior of any party members, can be downloaded to the page in question. Furthermore, the behaviors kept on the social network must be ascribed to freedom of expression, asking between the lines that the judgment can be entrusted to external entities.
The sentence can therefore only have one unambiguous conclusion: the CasaPound request is fully accepted, the legal fees are borne by Facebook and the pages will have to be reactivated.
Simone Di Stefano, winner of this round, slams the sentence to the "globalists" in the face, thus clearly giving a political flavor to the decision:
Apparently the "private" do not do as they please, dear ignorant globalists! The judiciary ORDER a #Facebook to reopen our pages, citing the Constitution and stating that #CasaPound has the right to exist and the right to communicate on social media.
– Simone Di Stefano 🇮🇹 (@distefanoTW) December 12, 2019
So instead Davide Di Stefano, which illustrates the point of view of The National Primacy on the affair:
I took the trouble to explain OK to @DavidPuente and company why #Facebook even if he is a private individual, he cannot do what he wants and decide who is talking and who is not. With the help of the Court of Rome, of course. #CasaPound https://t.co/aCJFpHLYMP
– Davide Di Stefano (@DavideDiStefan) December 12, 2019
The first reading of David Puente (often brought up by the members of CasaPound by virtue of its previous declarations on the occasion of the first sentence) it is strictly legal:
Read the sentence on the fly, as I said "if the violation is proven the action is justified". In this case, according to the Court, they are not proven. #SpiegatoSemplice
– David Puente (@DavidPuente) December 12, 2019
In short, Puente sees this sentence simply as Facebook's inability to demonstrate the soundness of its ban decision. Instead, the counterparty sees in this decision a priority of the Constitution on the private regulation of a foreign company. It is only the beginning of a debate destined to become tight, due to a sentence that in its many shadow areas could open up to various exploitations.
As Mark Zuckerberg
If ever one day this story should come under the eyes of Mark Zuckerberg, what should the Facebook number 1 of the Italian situation think? On the one hand, in fact, Facebook is asked to have an increasingly radical and immediate intervention, invoking the cancellation of violent content, hate phrases, insults, racism, incitements to terrorism and other dangerous deviations; on the other hand the social network is punished when it tries to clean up by judging (moreover with extremely wide sleeves) pages that are carriers of the same contents that other parts would be filtered a priori.
The discriminant seems to be in this case the political connotation, ie: where an idea is represented by a political movement, the social network should grant more freedom of expression than those granted to a private citizen. In what capacity should a similar discrepancy be created? Once again, the object is invited to reflect net of color and political representation: should a social network give more space for expression to a party instead of a private individual? Should a private platform (in any case free) give its space to politics, even if in violation of policies, even if without representation in Parliament (and declaredly outside electoral races)? What obligations fall on a social network in terms of social space?
Let us put ourselves in the shoes (comfortable in some ways, particularly uncomfortable from other points of view) by Mark Zuckerberg: where is the thin line that separates those who can and those who cannot, the licit from the illicit, the allowed by the not allowed?
It is without a doubt a sentence destined to be discussed. Destined to be further dismantled and reinterpreted. Destined to be pulled through the jacket by the entire political world, to demonstrate antithetical theses and shifting the discussion once more from the true object of the dispute, a collective good available to all opinions: freedom of expression, its limits, its strength, its fragility and its fundamental role for democratic balances.