Swiss Court Finds That Clicking 'Like' to Spread Hateful or Defamatory Content May Be a Crime
Mashing the Facebook share or like buttons on defamatory content as well as anti-Semitic propaganda or other far-right drivel could amount to a crime in Switzerland as a result of a ruling in Swiss Federal Court this week.
The defendant in the case had liked posts that accused animal rights activist Erwin Kessler of being an anti-Semite and a neo-Nazi, the Local reported, with a Zurich court ruling in 2017 that he must pay a fine for helping spread defamatory content. (Kessler was convicted of racial discrimination in 1998.) According to Bloomberg, the Federal Court upheld the Zurich court’s ruling that liking and sharing content can constitute defamation, writing that “activating both ‘like’ and ‘share’ buttons in Facebook can improve visibility and thereby contribute to the dissemination within the social network of marked content.”
Bloomberg indicated that while the case in question was about accusations of racism (defamation) and not hate speech per se, the Federal Court ruling has implications for anyone trying to spread content prohibited by Swiss law. (Both defamation and many forms of racism are criminal offenses in Switzerland.) If a court determines that the intent of hitting the like or share button on defamatory or hateful post was to disseminate it to a wider audience, the user who did so could be held liable.