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Man Fined $4,000 For 'Liking' Defamatory Posts on Facebook (cnn.com) 210

In what appears to be a first, a court in Switzerland has fined a man the equivalent of over $4,000 just for clicking the "like" button on what a judge said were defamatory Facebook comments. From a report: The court in Zurich found that the man indirectly endorsed and further distributed the comments by using the ubiquitous Facebook "like" button. The man, who was not named in the court's statement, "liked" several posts written by a third party that accused an animal rights activist of antisemitism, racism and fascism. In court, the man was not able to prove that the claims were accurate or could reasonably be held to be true. "The defendant clearly endorsed the unseemly content and made it his own," a statement from the court said. The court fined the man a total of 4,000 Swiss francs ($4,100). He has the right to appeal his sentence. Facebook said the case had "no direct link" to the company, and a spokesperson declined to comment.
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Man Fined $4,000 For 'Liking' Defamatory Posts on Facebook

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  • Good (Score:5, Funny)

    by 110010001000 ( 697113 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2017 @06:21PM (#54521821) Homepage Journal
    Everyone who uses Facebook should be fined $4000.
  • This is Why (Score:3, Funny)

    by sexconker ( 1179573 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2017 @06:22PM (#54521823)

    This is why Trump and REAL Americans want absolutely nothing to do with you Eurotrash.
    #covfefe

  • by WillAffleckUW ( 858324 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2017 @06:31PM (#54521901) Homepage Journal

    Who will think of the bots this will dramatically impact?

    When Russian bots dream, they dream of oil burning sheep.

    Think on them, before you fine too much.

    Vast herds of Russian bots might go hungry, unable to pay their fines.

    Will you help them?

  • ... for a court to be putting into a "like" button.

    For one thing, does "liking" using the button imply endorsement? Does "like" mean what they think it means? Or was the person's intention? And what if it was inadvertent clicking?

    What if the button was called "interesting..." instead?

    You would think that a court would restrain itself and hesitate to rule, given so many possibilities of meaning and ambiguities here...
    • ... for a court to be putting into a "like" button.

      For one thing, does "liking" using the button imply endorsement? Does "like" mean what they think it means? Or was the person's intention? And what if it was inadvertent clicking?

      What if the button was called "interesting..." instead?

      You would think that a court would restrain itself and hesitate to rule, given so many possibilities of meaning and ambiguities here...

      http://legal-dictionary.thefre... [thefreedictionary.com]

    • Read the summary (Score:3, Informative)

      by DogDude ( 805747 )
      Jeez, dude. Forget about RTFA. How about RTFS: Read The Fucking SUMMARY?
      The court in Zurich found that the man indirectly endorsed and further distributed the comments

      Personally, I like the ruling. Slander is slander. Spreading false bullshit should be a punishable civil offense in the US, too.
      • Trying to scroll FB on my phone I've accidentally liked or otherwise committed emoji actions. Just like I've accidentally caused videos to start playing, sites to be opened, etc.

    • What if the button was called "interesting..." instead?

      I have mod points, but I'm not willing to try it to find out...

    • by BitterOak ( 537666 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2017 @08:31PM (#54522527)

      ... for a court to be putting into a "like" button. For one thing, does "liking" using the button imply endorsement?

      Exactly. You read a post which says someone you don't like is a child molester. You had no knowledge of that, but you're thrilled to find out. (I'm assuming you really disliked this person.) Therefore you really like the news the post reveals, so you click "Like". It turns out the story was not true. Why should you be guilty of slander? Like doesn't mean you think the news is true; it means you like the news.

      • This is my understanding as well.

        Truth isn't the only way to avoid a slander/defamation charge. You also can have a reasonable belief. I'd say "that guy posted it" is at least a piece of a "reasonable belief" defense.

        But beyond that, does anyone really think "like" on facebook is the same as making the statement yourself? If I "like" a selfie, am I somehow posting a selfie? This is modestly incoherent.

    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      For one thing, does "liking" using the button imply endorsement? Does "like" mean what they think it means? Or was the person's intention? And what if it was inadvertent clicking?

      Well if the post was an explicit accusation, opinion or call to action like "Spread the word, he's a child molester", "Hitler should have finished the job" or "Rape that slut" then it's pretty hard to not interpret a "Like" as an endorsement. Yes, in many cases it can be rather ambiguous what a like means but not every case.

    • When a public person dies, many people "Like" on the news of their death. Does that mean they like that he died? Of course not.
    • Agreed. "Like" does not necessarily mean I support the position of the poster. I may like the writing style or the use of a good argument. I may think it's something that more people should evaluate. I might "like" something so a friend feels better about themselves. I may believe that a site will show me more posts on a controversial topic if I click "like" or upvote it.

    • ... for a court to be putting into a "like" button.

      For one thing, does "liking" using the button imply endorsement? Does "like" mean what they think it means? Or was the person's intention? And what if it was inadvertent clicking?

      What if the button was called "interesting..." instead?

      You would think that a court would restrain itself and hesitate to rule, given so many possibilities of meaning and ambiguities here...

      Logically, just liking something is a statement and not promoting it (this all, btw, is in a country without a First Amendment.)

      But in this, I think they were relying on the like button mechanically adding to a popularity counter, or some other such thing, which increased the number of people it was passed on to as a story for their scroll walls. Hence to like is to help redistribute the offending speech, and thus legally actionable.

  • by Theovon ( 109752 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2017 @06:49PM (#54521995)

    Ok, is Switzerland, so maybe they have different laws from what I’m used to. But in the civilized world, we value free speech. The right to free speech often translates into the right to be a total asshole, but that’s the price we pay to ensure that well-meaning people don’t have their rights stomped on by a fascist government.

    Now, speech can be INVOLVED in criminal behavior. For instance, libel and slander. These come down not to the speech but the consequences of the speech. You can “defame” a fictional character all you want, and you can say really asshole things about non-specific people.

    In this specific case there’s this “third party” who said defamatory things about an animal rights activist — who are THEY? Why aren’t we hearing more about this third party? Why aren’t they in trouble? Why is some moron with a like button fined $4000 when the original defamer is left unscathed?

    I’m really liberal, but this sounds like some of that SJW shit the conservatives are always going on about.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 31, 2017 @07:27PM (#54522223)

      "Free speech" does not protect things like defamation of character, slander, libel, or inciting violence.

      • "Free speech" does not protect things like defamation of character, slander, libel, or inciting violence.

        In the United States, free speech does not protect defamation, whether that defamation is slander or libel (two types of defamation).

        Inciting violence is actually somewhat protected so long as it is not actually likely to occur. The government can ban "incitement to imminent lawless action that is likely to occur" without violating the First Amendment, at least under 1969 Supreme Court precedent that is good law today.

        However, there are a LOT of ins and outs to the law of free speech in the United States. I

      • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

        Except that was done by the original party. Based on Swiss law, Slashdot is committing libel by publishing this whole nonsense. If you can't information about nonsense, even if it that nonsense might include the fact that someone slandered someone else, then journalism and free speech are pretty much meaningless.

      • Any countries that has "inciting violence" laws does not have free speech.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      We don't know anything about the third party. Maybe they're the subject of a separate case. Maybe they've already settled their differences. Maybe, and this is what I suspect, they're not in Switzerland and not within the reach of the Swiss courts.

      But the guy in Switzerland is within reach of those courts, and if they think that he's breached their law - and they are the ultimate authority on that question, if nothing else - then they're completely within their rights to punish him for it.

      Defamation is not

      • by bmo ( 77928 )

        Did Theovon fuck his hamster last week?

        I'm only asking questions here.

        --
        BMO

    • But in the civilized world, we value free speech.

      Actually the vast majority of the world has no free speech civilised or otherwise. A lot of it has protected speech such as the right to bitch about your government, but very few places actually have a right to free speech.

    • The commenters were prosecuted as well. Source: https://www.theguardian.com/te... [theguardian.com]
  • Pretty soon the Internet will be filled with the sound of crickets.
    • Pretty soon the Internet will be filled with the sound of crickets.

      ... and you had better click their "like" button!

    • by lgw ( 121541 )

      "Fools" said I, "You do not know
      Silence like a cancer grows
      Hear my words that I might teach you,
      Take my arms that I might reach you"
      But my words like silent raindrops fell,
      And echoed in the wells of silence

  • There go the mods (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ken_g6 ( 775014 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2017 @06:55PM (#54522053) Homepage

    Isn't the Slashdot moderation system based on likes? If moderators can get sued for promoting a post, Slashdot isn't long for the Internet.

    • Isn't the Slashdot moderation system based on likes? If moderators can get sued for promoting a post, Slashdot isn't long for the Internet.

      If Slashdot were Swiss... This may come as a shock, but the Internet exists in many different legal jurisdictions.

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      The USA has freedom of speech and freedom after speech.
      The EU and nations in the EU area have lawyers and reports sent to governments when free speech is attempted.
      Wait for other nations to try out their blasphemy laws.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by zzyvits ( 714737 )

        The USA has freedom of speech and freedom after speech. The EU and nations in the EU area have lawyers and reports sent to governments when free speech is attempted. Wait for other nations to try out their blasphemy laws.

        FYI - Switzerland is not part of the EU

    • Slashdot probably would be safe. The main reason behind the ruling is that under facebook a like also shares that message with all your friends. So the guy is guilty of spreading the information, lack of freedom of speech in his home country.
  • by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2017 @07:02PM (#54522087)
    Thoughtcrime!
    • by MrL0G1C ( 867445 )

      That's two words, even if you did put them very close together.

      • by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2017 @08:12PM (#54522419)

        That's two words, even if you did put them very close together.

        It is a neologism, from the novel 1984. They combined a lot of different words together.

        The reference is to the concept that having a thought, or an opinion can be a crime.

        And if it is a crime to push the "like" button on a facebook page, it fits thoughtcrime to a T. This crininal must utilize crimestop in the future to rid himself of his illegal thoughts and illegal opinions. Then he will not be guilty of his terrible crimes.

        • by Aristos Mazer ( 181252 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2017 @10:36PM (#54523009)
          No. It is a crime because pushing the LIKE button spreads the message. It isn't just that you liked it, it is that you published it to your network. You helped spread a false and defamatory statement. It is not thoughtcrime at all. It is an actual crime of promoting a lie, something that is punishable under US law also. The only thing new here is ruling that the LIKE button is a form of publication ... which it is.
          • No. It is a crime because pushing the LIKE button spreads the message. It isn't just that you liked it, it is that you published it to your network. You helped spread a false and defamatory statement. It is not thoughtcrime at all. It is an actual crime of promoting a lie, something that is punishable under US law also. The only thing new here is ruling that the LIKE button is a form of publication ... which it is.

            Bullshit. So tell me exactly how many US citizens have been arrested for pushing the "like Button. Show me the statutes, and where "like" is publishing. I can't find them myself, so perhaps a superior European can show me.

            Thoughtcrime it is unless you can show me who's been prosecuted here. We get it, you hate us. But that doesn't mean any old bullshit you care to spew is true.

            • I never said that US citizens are arrested for pushing LIKE. The crime in the US is called libel. See New York Times v Sullivan (SCOTUS 1964) [wikipedia.org]. A person is guilty of libel if they publish something (quoting Wikipedia which is correctly [by my study of the decision] summarizing the SCOTUS decision) "knew that the statement was false or acted in reckless disregard of its truth or falsity." It's that second case that is applicable here -- the person pushing the LIKE button is recklessly disseminating informatio
              • I never said that US citizens are arrested for pushing LIKE.

                That's good, because unlike Switzerland, we aren't. There are mountains of ambiguity in it, even if it weren't considered free speech. Who exactly pressed the "like" button? Are there degrees of like? To your idea that they are spreading the untruth, is laughing, upset, or even disliking emoticon still a punishable offense since by your definition, the crime is the repost. Even outside of the like buttons, If a person comments on the bad posting, be it agreement, commiserating, or disagreeing, they further

                • If a person comments on the bad posting, be it agreement, commiserating, or disagreeing, they further spread the posting.

                  True. And I'd be interested to see how the Swiss court would rule on that.

                  You make many other excellent points. After reading through them, I still think there is grounds for hitting LIKE to be used as a piece of evidence in a defamation trial, but perhaps not as the sole point of action. But if I can show that a person has hit LIKE to promote many such posts, that I think overcomes most of your objections (accident, casual contemplation, etc).

                  And I'll call it "Thoughtcrime" too, because by jingo, I can do that! It isn't against the law here in the backwoods.

                  And I'll support your right to use a term incorrectly, all th

          • by Calydor ( 739835 )

            Mother posts that her child has passed away.

            Friends, looking to offer comfort but not knowing what to say, like the post.

            Friends get sued for causing emotional grief because they like that her child died.

            It's the same logic just in a different story. The Like button is a one-size-fits-all solution with a bunch of different meanings depending on context and person.

            • Except your example ISN'T what this case was about. It wasn't some emotional grief or something like that. The charge was criminal defamation, specifically, promoting a false story without evidence.

              Your emotional grief example is a strawman argument that has no relationship to the actual issue of the case.
          • by lgw ( 121541 ) on Thursday June 01, 2017 @02:46AM (#54523707) Journal

            . It is an actual crime of promoting a lie, something that is punishable under US law also.

            No, it really isn't. We still have freedom of speech here. Even slander and libel aren't crimes, they are torts. Sure, there are laws governing how the civil case should be handled, if the damaged party cares to bring such a case, but that's different from criminal law.

            • I concede the technicality. A large part of what is criminal law in Europe is civil law in USA. Nonetheless, publishing libel does expose the publisher to legal punishment, even if it is not specifically a crime, which was the heart of my point: USA does have laws protecting against libelous speech/publication. Should the LIKE button qualify as publishing?

              I generally think we should treat social media companies as neutral carriers and make the people using the platforms responsible for their own speech (
      • You unbellyfeel newspeak.

    • Not thoughtcrime. Willfully distributing FALSE STATEMENTS. That's a crime in the USA also. The only thing new here is that the court ruled that the LIKE button qualifies as distribution of false statements. This wasn't about opinion. This was about not doing the fact checking before spreading lies.
      • Not thoughtcrime. Willfully distributing FALSE STATEMENTS. That's a crime in the USA also. The only thing new here is that the court ruled that the LIKE button qualifies as distribution of false statements. This wasn't about opinion. This was about not doing the fact checking before spreading lies.

        Here in the wilds of America, "liking" something on Facebook is considered "free speech"

        https://www.washingtonpost.com... [washingtonpost.com]

        It is considered analogous to having a bumper sticker. And make no mistakes, opinions can be wrong, but there is no law against having a stupid or false opinion.

        Now what you are not allowed to do on Facebook here in the hinterlands is threaten physical violence aganst someone - just like anywhere else. Libel laws are also in play. But for the person who actually performs threatenin

    • by mjwx ( 966435 )

      Thoughtcrime!

      Whilst I disagree with this by principle, it is not thoughtcrime.

      Like many people who claim "thoughtcrime" you don't have any idea about what thoughtcrime is. Probably because you've never actually read Nineteen Eighty-Four.

      Thoughtcrime was where the wrong facial expression could give you away, wearing a frown or a smile would be taken as a sign of seditious or subversive thoughts, so the term "thoughtcrime" was coined. The citizens and residents of Airstrip One would always wear a face of cautious optimism

      • Thoughtcrime!

        Whilst I disagree with this by principle, it is not thoughtcrime.

        Like many people who claim "thoughtcrime" you don't have any idea about what thoughtcrime is. Probably because you've never actually read Nineteen Eighty-Four.

        Thoughtcrime was where the wrong facial expression could give you away, wearing a frown or a smile would be taken as a sign of seditious or subversive thoughts, so the term "thoughtcrime" was coined. The citizens and residents of Airstrip One would always wear a face of cautious optimism to avoid being charged with thoughtcrime.

        In this case, he actually did something instead of being accused of just thinking it.

        Seriously. Must a real world example be the exact action from a book? Regardless, Wikipedia has thoughtcrime describing an "illegal thought" and I happen to agree with it. Argue with them.

        My thoughts about something are my opinions about it. If I think that Sophia Vergara is really appealing, that is my opinion. Pretty simple. If I I push the like button regarding a positive post about her I have expressed my thoughts. If say, I thought about whatever this guy was "liking", that would likewise be my opin

  • by seoras ( 147590 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2017 @07:20PM (#54522187)

    I was about to start throwing my weight around in here, moderating up/down, but then I realised I could face legal consequences for endorsing anyones views. :-/

    • I was about to start throwing my weight around in here, moderating up/down, but then I realised I could face legal consequences for endorsing anyones views. :-/

      So move out of Switzerland. While not part of the EU, it's still pretty damn trivial to relocate to Germany, especially since you probably speak German as your first language. Most Swiss do [swissinfo.ch]. Just don't up-mod any Nazis and you'll be fine.

      • by seoras ( 147590 )

        1) I'm Scottish
        2) I live in New Zealand
        3) "danke", "ja","nein" & "ich liebe dich" are the only words of German I know. Can I still move there? :)
        4) I was being ironic and making a point which you obvious missed. Maybe it's the mountains, you always get poor reception up there.

        • by seoras ( 147590 )

          Oh! I missed out another word I know in German.
          "schöne".
          I had a German girlfriend who said it so much that makes it, almost, unforgettable... ;) :D

        • 3) "danke", "ja","nein" & "ich liebe dich" are the only words of German I know. Can I still move there? :)

          Nope. You fail. Swiss Germans say "merci", not "danke".

  • I guess truth is not a defense against defamation in Switzerland. I hope irony is.
  • by LeftCoastThinker ( 4697521 ) on Wednesday May 31, 2017 @10:11PM (#54522895)

    And this, boys and girls, is what you get when you don't have a constitution that guarantees free speech. The lefties in the US are trying for the same thing by equating speech they don't like to assault and then rioting http://www.foxnews.com/politic... [foxnews.com] and beating people in the head with bike locks to shut down speech they disagree with. http://www.nbclosangeles.com/n... [nbclosangeles.com] Every fascist leftie, piss ant bureaucrat and judge becomes their own little dictator who can shit on you from on high. The only thing stopping this crap in the US is our constitution and enforcement of the rule of law (which apparently doesn't happen in Berkeley, CA...

  • As if we need another reason.

  • He can easily prove that he made a true statement, even if you take clicking "like" as a statement. He liked the comment he clicked on. Are they going to get him to testify against himself and say he _didn't_ actually like the comment?

    This is incredibly stupid. The statement he made was "I like this statement." He did not claim anyone was racist or anything else.

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