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Switzerland: CERN lab drops Facebook due to data concerns

Europe's physics lab CERN on Wednesday said it had stopped using a Facebook team-chat application because of concerns about handing over data to the US tech giant.

Switzerland: CERN lab drops Facebook due to data concerns
Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

CERN said it wound up its Facebook Workplace account on January 31 after the US firm gave it the choice of either paying to use the service or sharing data. “Losing control of our data was unacceptable,” CERN said in a blog on January 28, confirmed to AFP by spokeswoman Anais Rassat on Wednesday.

CERN said it started using Workplace when it was offered the service for free in 2016. It said some 1,000 members of the CERN community had created accounts and there were around 150 active users each week.

READ: How media diversity is shrinking in Switzerland

“Reactions were not always positive. Many people preferred not to use a tool from a company that they did not trust in terms of data privacy,” the laboratory said.

CERN said its staff would now instead use two open-source chat services: Mattermost and Discourse.

CERN is home to the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) — a giant lab in a tunnel straddling the French-Swiss border that is the world's most powerful proton smasher.

Workplace is an enterprise-oriented version of Facebook that, instead of distracting workers, is intended to let them connect and collaborate.

It claims to have around three million paying users. Facebook has faced a series of privacy scandals in recent years, including over the hijacking of personal data on millions of users by a British consultancy developing voter profiles for Donald Trump's 2016 campaign.

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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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