Man Fined $4K for Giving the Thumbs-Up on Facebook

Could be a first in Switzerland, or anywhere
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted May 31, 2017 2:32 PM CDT
Court Fines Man $4K for 'Liking' Facebook Comments
Attendees arrive at Facebook's annual F8 developer conference on April 18, 2017, in San Jose, Calif.   (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Be careful what you like online, especially if you're in Switzerland—it may get you in trouble for defamation. In what Fortune reports could be a first, a court there has fined an unidentified man the equivalent of more than $4,000 after he liked defamatory comments on Facebook that accused an animal rights activist of racism and anti-Semitism. The activist, Erwin Kessler, had been the subject of heated Facebook conversations in 2015 about which animal welfare groups should be allowed in a vegan street festival, reports the Swiss daily Tages Anzeiger. In stark contrast, a US federal court ruled in 2013 that an online "like" is protected by the First Amendment.

Kessler sued over a dozen people involved in those online exchanges, several of whom have already been convicted for comments they made, reports the Guardian, but this latest fine appears to be the first time someone has been convicted for merely pressing "like." The court, however, ruled that even though the defendant didn't write the comments, he "clearly endorsed the unseemly content and made it his own." A defense attorney says that if courts want to prosecute people for simply liking content, "we could easily need to triple the number of judges in this country," adding it could "easily become an assault on the freedom of expression." (See how Facebook likes are linked to lower self-esteem.)

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