Swiss man convicted of racism and anti-Semitism over Facebook ‘likes’ in defamation case

Man convicted over Facebook ‘likes’ in defamation case

MAY 30, 2017 - 11:38

​​​​​​​In a landmark trial, a Swiss man has received a suspended sentence and a CHF4,000 ($4,000) fine in a defamation case which involved him “liking” Facebook posts that accused an animal rights activist of racism and anti-Semitism.

On Monday, a Zurich district court found the 45-year-old defendant guilty of defamation.
The Zurich man had accused Erwin Kessler, the president of the animal protection organisation “Verein gegen Tierfabrikenexternal link” and his association online of racism and anti-Semitism.

The defendant had also liked six Facebook posts from other people that contained the inflammatory content, also commenting on and linking to several of the posts.

The court said the inflammatory Facebook posts were unjustifiable. According to Judge Catherine Gerwig, such defamatory statements on the social media network violated Kessler’s honour. By clicking on a Facebook “Like” button, the defendant was endorsing the defamatory content and making it his own.

The act of “liking” content on Facebook spreads it more widely across the site and makes it available to a greater number of people.

The court added that the defendant could not prove that the offending statements about Kessler and his organisation were true or that he had good reason to believe them to be true. The defendant’s lawyer had argued that Kessler had himself been convicted of racial discrimination in the past.

The defendant can still appeal the decision to Zurich’s cantonal court.


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