December 12, 2019 / 6:27 PM / a month ago

Italian judge orders Facebook to reopen neo-fascist group's account

ROME (Reuters) - An Italian judge on Thursday upheld an appeal by far-right group Casapound against a decision by Facebook (FB.O) to close its account, deeming that the move by the social media company prevented political pluralism.

FILE PHOTO: Facebook logos are seen on a screen in this picture illustration taken December 2, 2019. REUTERS/Johanna Geron/Illustration

Facebook blocked Casapound’s account in September, saying it had violated the platform’s policy against spreading hate.

Casapound espouses neo-fascist ideology and has boosted its profile in Italy by leading anti-migrant campaigns on social media. Its Facebook page had some 250,000 followers.

“The exclusion of the applicants from Facebook is in contrast with the right to pluralism... eliminating or strongly compressing the possibility for association... to express its political messages,” said the court ruling seen by Reuters.

It ordered the “immediate” reopening of the Facebook account and ruled that the social network had to repay 15,000 euros ($16,500) in legal fees to Casapound.

The ruling made no reference to the photo and video sharing platform Instagram, which is owned by Facebook and had also been blocked.

“Magistrates order Facebook to reopen our pages, citing the constitution and stating that Casapound has the right to exist and to communicate on social media,” Casapound’s leader, Simone Di Stefano, wrote on Twitter.

A Facebook spokesman said the company was “examining” the ruling, without making further comment.

The court said Facebook would be fined 800 euros for each day of violation of the judicial order. At 1745 GMT, Casapound’s account was still blocked.

In September, Facebook took the same decision against another neo-fascist group, Forza Nuova, which was not involved in Thursday’s ruling.

Reporting by Domenico Lusi; writing by Angelo Amante, editing by Gavin Jones and Nick Macfie

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