Application Number 74742/14

European Court of Human Rights

An anonymous post was placed on a small blog stating that the applicant was part of a Nazi Party. The applicant informed the blog which removed the post and issued an apology. The applicant sued the blog for this post but his case was rejected by national courts. The ECtHR found this application to be manifestly ill-founded.


Theme(s): Defamation/Nazism

Date: 7 December 2017

Description of applicant(s): Citizen

 Brief description of facts: The applicant is a Swedish national. On 29 September 2011, a blog run by a small non-profit association published a post, accusing Mr Pihl of being involved in a Nazi party. An anonymous person posted a comment stating, “that guy pihl is also a real hash-junkie according to several people I have spoken to.” Nine days later and following a complaint by Mr Pihl, the association removed the blog post and comment, and published an apology. Mr Pihl sued the association for defamation. He claimed that the association was responsible for both the post and the comment. In regard to the latter he held that this was because the association had failed to remove it immediately. The national courts rejected his case.

(Alleged) target(s) of speech: The applicant

The Court’s assessment of the impugned speech: The Court looked at the balance between Article 8 and Article 10. In view of the quick removal by the blog (one day after notification by the applicant), the issuance of an apology on the blog, the small size of the blog and the fact that the comment was not hate speech or an incitement to violence, the ECtHR believed that domestic courts struck a fair balance between Article 8 and 10.

Important paragraph(s) from the judgment:

Para. 37:  In view of the above, and especially the fact that the comment, although offensive, did not amount to hate speech or incitement to violence and was posted on a small blog run by a non-profit association which took it down the day after the applicant’s request and nine days after it had been posted, the Court finds that the domestic courts acted within their margin of appreciation and struck a fair balance between the applicant’s rights under Article 8 and the association’s opposing right to freedom of expression under Article 10.

ECHR Article: Article 8

Decision: Manifestly ill-founded

Use of ‘hate speech’ by the Court in its assessment? Yes, para.37 above