If you are a Freedom of Speech advocator, this news will probably anger you. But there is no such thing absolute freedom for speaking or liking something which is defamatory, The next time you go on to like or react to any controversial comment on Facebook, especially if you’re in Switzerland, you can be dragged to court and penalized for liking such FB posts which are defamatory according to law.
In what appears to be a first, a Swiss man in a landmark trial has been slapped a $4,000 fine and a two-year suspended prison sentence in a defamation case by a court in Zurich after he was found guilty for liking slanderous comments on Facebook.
The Facebook posts involved the 45-year-old defendant “liking” comments that accused Erwin Kessler, who runs an animal-rights group, of racism and anti-Semitism. The defendant (who wasn’t named in the court documents) clicked “like” on six of the inflammatory comments posted by other Facebook users, and also commented and linked to some of the posts.
According to court documents, the Zurich district court judge in the case ruled that by clicking the “like” button, the defendant “clearly endorsed the unseemly content.”
Judge Catherine Gerwig ruled that he also “made [the comments] accessible to a large number of people” by Liking them, since “Facebook showed them to all of his friends and followers.” The judge ruled the defendant had failed to prove the comments were true or that he had good reason to believe them to be true. She also said that such defamatory statements on the social media network violated Kessler’s honor.
Kessler, who is the president of the animal protection organisation “Verein gegen Tierfabriken”, has sued over a dozen people who had participated in heated online discussions over various Facebook groups in the year 2015 about which animal rights groups should be allowed to attend a vegan street festival in Switzerland, Veganmania Schweiz, reported Tages-Anzeiger newspaper. The court has found several people guilty of defamation for making specific comments about Kessler.
Kessler himself has been convicted of racial discrimination in the past, receiving a brief prison sentence for comparing Jewish ritual slaughter methods to Nazi practices, argued a lawyer for one of the defendants, Amr Abdelaziz. He said, “If the courts want to prosecute people for likes on Facebook, we could easily need to triple the number of judges in this country. This could also obviously easily become an assault on the freedom of expression.”
The defendant can still appeal the decision to Zurich’s cantonal court.
Source: Swiss Info