Court backs Twitter over complaint from conspiracy-plagued Dutch town

A Dutch court on Tuesday rejected calls from the town of Bodegraven-Reeuwijk for Twitter (TWTR.N) to do more to tackle posts about unfounded allegations that a ring of Satan-worshipping paedophiles were active in the town in the 1980s.

The District Court in The Hague concluded the social media giant had “done enough to remove unlawful content about the ‘Bodegraven story’ from its platform,” referring, among other things, to the permanent suspension of a Twitter account that contained defamatory and inflammatory tweets about the story.

The town of around 35,000 inhabitants last month took Twitter to court and demanded it take down all messages related to unfounded stories of children being abused and murdered in Bodegraven decades ago.

The stories have made Bodegraven the focus of conspiracy theories on social media since 2020, with strangers flocking to the local graveyard to lay flowers and write messages at the graves of dead children.

The court said it would not order Twitter to remove other tweets relating to the stories from other accounts, but did tell the company to respond immediately to concrete removal requests from Bodegraven-Reeuwijk.

Twitter had argued it was impossible to create a good filter to find Bodegraven stories that would not affect legal content.

Three men accused of instigating the Bodegraven story are currently in jail after being convicted in other court cases for incitement and making death threats to people including Prime Minister Mark Rutte and former health minister Hugo de Jonge.