Man Sued for Facebook 'Like' Loses Case, Fined $4k

John Lister's picture

A Swiss man has been fined for libel after clicking the Facebook "like" button. The court ruled that doing so exposed a post to more users and thus counted as a publication in itself. Several other people had already been found responsible for libel in the same case, but they had all written something in their own words rather than simply clicking "like".

The unnamed defendant was fined $4,000 Swiss francs, equivalent to US $4,120. He has the right to appeal but his lawyers says the cost of doing so will likely mean he doesn't.

Court: 'Like' Makes Content Your Own

The case involves a series of posts about a controversial animal rights activist, with several comments accusing him of racist and anti-semitic behavior. Surprisingly, lawyers for the man who clicked the "like" button stated that the comments were true, rather than addressing the issue of whether his actions made him responsible for their content.

The court ruled that it didn't matter if the defendant had not written the comments himself. Instead it said that pressing the "like" button meant "the defendant clearly endorsed the unseemly content and made it his own" and that he had "made them accessible to a large number of people." (Source:

Part of the confusion of the case is that it's not certain whether or not the defendant understood Facebook's algorithms. The default setting for most users is that any posts that their friends "like" becomes eligible to appear in their news feed, though how prominently it is positioned will vary from case to case.

As a result, it's certainly possible that clicking "like" will cause a post to be seen by users who would otherwise not have seen it.

"Retweets" also at Risk

The case was heard in a regional court, but lawyers say it will likely have "a large impact" on potential cases elsewhere in Switzerland. However, it doesn't affect laws in other countries. (Source:

It's the latest in a series of disputed cases over how libel law applies online. For example, some courts in the UK have concluded that clicking "retweet" on a Twitter post counts as publication because it causes it to be seen by more people.

However, most countries hold that companies such as Facebook and Twitter themselves can't be held responsible for defamatory comments posted on the site.

What's Your Opinion?

Did the court make the right decision? Does Facebook do enough to make clear that "liking" a post will cause it to be seen by more people? Do you understand the laws covering online libel in your country and if so, are they fair?

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Dennis Faas's picture

So much for free speech! I can't believe this story even turned into a court case. If you can sue someone for liking a Facebook post, you should also be able to sue for 'pain and suffering' due to poor grammar and incorrect use of punctuation in online posts. Just think of all the money that could be generated from frivolous lawsuits!

buzzallnight's picture

Do not use your real name!!!!!!!!

Especially on facebook!!!!!

The internet is not a good place for stupid people.

DLStoehner's picture

Remember that this article is about Swiss laws not USA. I know that I have seen other items about Swiss whatever that I thought were strange too.`

ecash's picture

The law in the USA is based on 1 idea...
TRUTH is not defamation..

" The 45-year-old defendant ‘liked’ eight Facebook posts from various animal rights groups that accused Erwin Kessler, the president of animal protection association Vereins gegen Tierfabriken, of racism and anti-Semitism.

Kessler is now pursuing the Zurich man for defamation. "

"The defendant's lawyer will demand an acquittal. He claimed that the prosecutor wanted to stop the proceedings originally. The Supreme Court had, however, decided that charges should be imposed. His client was not the only one accused by Kessler. The lawyer represents only eight persons in five similar cases. He points out that Kessler has been legally convicted of racial discrimination.

For Erwin Kessler, the Liken is a form of further spreading of embezzlement and therefore punishable. For all friends would see the "Like". "An acquittal would open the back door of calumnies wide without the responsible persons being held accountable," says Kessler."

Excuse the translation..

THE WHOLE idea is the PUBLISHING of News/Data...IF these people can PUBLISH to others, then ANYONE, including the news papers CAN do the same without recourse/punishment..

Even in this can be Sued, and PART of that is much could you pay going to COURT for YEARS??

equestrian_colt's picture

This is nothing more than the Nazi wannabe governments trying to strong arm people into showing they have all the power. It's just another anti Freedom push for more power and control. On the other hand if you use Facebook still your an idiot they are in bed with the governments and the governments are watching everything everyone says or does through Facebook.

kitekrazy's picture

There is no shortage in history where Europe ranks at the top in stupidity.