by Graham Pierrepoint
Social media really is bleeding more and more into our everyday lives and even into some of the ways we run them – and when it comes to international law, there are even some instances of Facebook and Twitter use impacting upon the freedoms of various members of the public. Whether it’s making fake threats on Twitter, threatening death on Facebook or otherwise, the world has needed to catch up with the internet very quickly indeed. This week, it appears that even ‘liking’ a statement on Facebook could result in criminal indictment – at least, according to a Swiss court case considered to be the first of its kind.
In the case, the Zurich district court has ruled that a user who ‘liked’ several statements previously thought to have been inflammatory – about a post made by Erwin Kessler, an animal rights activist – should be fined for having shown such assent towards such words. Kessler himself is thought to have sued a number of the people who made such derogatory comments, and some have already been convicted – Swiss law has found that even though the unnamed user merely ‘liked’ words made against Kessler, they were considered to be endorsing ‘the unseemly content’, making the content ‘his own’.
Kessler himself came under fire from the defendant, who advised that the activist had been racist and anti-Semitic – and the prosecuted had in fact been convicted himself many years ago and had served time in jail for breaching Switzerland’s laws regarding racism. Kessler had commented that methods used by the Jewish faith to slaughter animals could be comparable to Nazi regimes. The Swiss system, therefore, could be considered a leader in fighting back against hate speech – and it seems to be the first of its kind to hit back against ‘liking’ and piggybacking of certain comments.
It seems that going public on what you ‘like’, the statuses you post and so forth could lead you down a longer rabbit hole than many may have presumed. It’s long been thought that employers and more besides are able to keep a close eye on specific social media usage – and this latest case, perhaps the very first in a long line, may well set a precedent for users needing to be very careful about what they publicly announce, and even like, in future. Who knows who’s watching?