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MUHAMMAD

Rights group slams Facebook for Muhammad weekly censorship

Rights group Reporters Without Borders slammed Facebook on Friday for threatening to terminate the account of a French weekly whose offices were firebombed after publishing images of the Muslim prophet Muhammad.

RSF noted with irony that Charlie Hebdo's staff could no longer edit comments on its Facebook "wall", including those inciting violence, while the "enemies of freedom of expression" could continue to post hate messages.

"Facebook has just discovered opportunely that Charlie Hebdo 'is not a real person', something that breaks the site's rules," RSF said in a statement, citing a message in French from Facebook.

"The content that you have published on Facebook has been deleted for breaking (Facebook) rules. Postings with graphic, sexually explicit or excessively revealing content are banned," it quoted Facebook as saying.

"This message is a warning. Another infraction will result in the account being terminated."

Charlie Hebdo — which on Wednesday published a special Arab Spring edition with Muhammad on the cover as "guest editor" saying: "100 lashes if you don't die of laughter!" — has the offending cover as its Facebook profile picture.

"We can only regret a position that says the enemies of freedom of expression are right and which leaves us perplexed as to the social network's real motives for closing the account," RSF said.

"The newspaper can no longer either add or block outside comments, be they hateful or threatening, as the page's administrator cannot deactivate outside contributions," RSF said.

"It is extremely worrying to notice that the social network seems to fall on the side of censorship and restricting the freedom to inform," RSF said, noting that Facebook had already closed the pages of several dissidents.

Facebook shut down the page of Michael Anti because it was a pseudonym of Chinese political blogger Jing Zhao, while the Facebook group "We are all Khaled Said", named after an Egyptian blogger killed by security forces, was closed because the group's administrators didn't use their real names.

"If Facebook closes Charlie Hebdo's page it would have far-reaching consequences for journalists, bloggers or internet activists, who may in future censor themselves," RSF said.

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Swiss court rules defamatory Facebook likes ‘can be illegal’

The Swiss Federal Court has ruled that Facebook likes and shares can be considered as illegal defamation.

Swiss court rules defamatory Facebook likes ‘can be illegal’
Photo by Kon Karampelas on Unsplash

The case was hearing a matter from the canton of Zurich says people can in some cases be punished for sharing or liking particular posts on social media, even if they did not create the content themselves. 

The case related to a dispute between animal rights activists from 2015. The perpetrator had liked and shared several posts critical of fellow animal rights activist Erwin Kessler. 

In groups like ‘Vegan in Zurich’ and ‘Indyvegan’, the perpetrator had liked and shared posts which portrayed as a neo-Nazi who harboured anti-Semitic ideas. 

The Zurich court fined the perpetrator saying the social media actions amounted to defamation. The Federal Court on Thursday upheld the verdict. 

While issues related to defamation are relatively unclear on social media – as opposed to through traditional media sources – the court held that the potential for such remarks to go ‘viral’ meant that social media actions could be defamatory in nature. 

Swiss defamation law only requires that an act be communicated to a third party in order for it to be defamatory, with online communication reaching the relevant threshold. 

The court said that it would depend on the circumstances as to whether likes and shares were likely to breach defamation laws, however a major factor was how visible the post was to others outside the immediate friend networks of the person defamed. 

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