The case refers to the publication of an article in an online media outlet that contains a hyperlink to a YouTube video. The hyperlink was further reproduced on three other websites, operated by other media outlets. The video was not recorded by a third party and includes statements deemed defamatory by national courts. They also considered that that providing a hyperlink to content qualified as dissemination of facts was unlawful even if the disseminator had not identified itself with the content of the third-party’s statement and even if it had wrongly trusted the truthfulness of the statement.
The European Court of Human Rights states that hyperlinks, as a technique of reporting, are essentially different from traditional acts of publication in that, as a general rule, they merely direct users to content available elsewhere on the Internet. They do not present the linked statements to the audience or communicate its content, but only serve to call readers’ attention to the existence of material on another website. Therefore, the Court cannot agree with the approach of the domestic courts consisting of equating the mere posting of a hyperlink with the dissemination of the defamatory information, automatically entailing liability for the content itself. In the case object of the decision, the Court notes that the article in question simply mentioned that the interview containing allegedly defamatory statements was to be found on YouTube and provided a means to access it through a hyperlink, without further comments on, or repetition even of parts of, the linked interview itself. However, the Court does not exclude that, in certain particular constellations of elements, even the mere repetition of a statement, for example in addition to a hyperlink, may potentially engage the question of liability. Such situations can be where a journalist does not act in good faith in accordance with the ethics of journalism and with the diligence expected in responsible journalism dealing with a matter of public interest.