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Swiss watchdog ‘in contact’ with Facebook cryptocurrency backers

Switzerland's market watchdog confirmed Thursday that it is contact with the "initiators" of Facebook's new cryptocurrency, as questions mount over how the money will be regulated.

Swiss watchdog 'in contact' with Facebook cryptocurrency backers
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in May 2018. Photo: AFP

Switzerland has tried to establish itself as a global cryptocurrencies hub, but the entry into the market of a behemoth like Facebook will increase scrutiny over the rules Switzerland has in place. 

“We can confirm that we are in contact with the initiators of the project,” a spokesman for the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA), Tobias Lux, told AFP in an email. 

The Libra coin plan, launched this week by Facebook and some two dozen partners, is being overseen by a Geneva-based nonprofit called the Libra Association.  

Lux declined to comment on the details of FINMA's exchanges with the Libra Association but said the watchdog's role was to determine “whether the planned services require approval under Swiss supervisory law and, if so, which.”

The Libra Association has said it registered in Switzerland because the wealthy Alpine nation has “a history of global neutrality and openness to blockchain technology.”

But given Facebook's international reach, global regulators are unlikely to leave supervision of Libra entirely to the Swiss. 

The US Senate committee on banking, housing and urban affairs announced on Wednesday that it would hold hearings next month on “Facebook's proposed digital currency and data privacy concerns.”

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney has said the Facebook project required scrutiny while French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire warned Libra cannot be allowed to replace sovereign currencies.

Switzerland, a long-standing global banking hub, has made a series of moves to attract nascent cryptocurrency businesses, including tax breaks and logistical support. 

The town of Zug has been dubbed “Crypto Valley” because of the influx of virtual currency firms

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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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