A 45-year old Swiss man was found guilty of liking defamatory comments on Facebook that were accusing a certain animal rights activist of being an "anti-Semite" and a "racist." According to court records, the defendant indirectly accused Erwin Kessler and an activism body that he's the head of by liking certain comments on the popular social media network, in addition to posting several of his own accusations. The debate goes back to 2015 when there were heated discussions over the participation of animal rights groups in a certain local vegan festival. Many involved in those discussions accused Kessler of things like antisemitism, and he has gone on to file a lawsuit against his accusers.
The case is among the first in the world to hinge on simply liking posts or comments on Facebook. According to the competent Swiss court, the action not only showed that the defendant approved of and agreed with the comments being liked, but helped spread those comments by making them more visible to the defendant's friends on the social media platform. According to the judge, this constituted an "affront to (Kessler's) honor". The defendant was fined with an equivalent of $4,100 and may appeal that verdict for a limited time.
The case could very well set a precedent, though its potential global implications are currently unclear, provided that there will be any. While liking Facebook posts is certainly a form of approval and it consequently stands to reason that such actions could be deemed defamatory, the reasoning behind the latest ruling may be expanded to other activities by another judicial body in the future. Facebook's reaction system covers a range of emotions and could end up being cited in the legal world as an indication of how somebody feels about a particular issue, or even help to establish intent or motive in certain cases. Somebody could be accused of plotting against their government by putting an angry reaction on a post about a government figure, for example, in the worst case scenario. To be sure, there is a balance to be struck here, but it seems that nobody's found it quite yet.