Retweet not punishable

Media Law, Social Media, Twitter

In January 2016, the Zurich District Court took Switzerland's first decision in a retweet case. The single judge came to the conclusion that the forwarder of a retweet may not be held criminally liable.

Background of decision is the complaint of a politician against a journalist which shared a tweet written by an unknown author with his 1,500 Twitter followers. The politician demanded for a punishment of the journalist for libel or defamation, because the Tweet ac-used him of supporting fascist ideas.

The Zurich District Court qualified the Retweet to infringe the personal rights of the politician. However, from a criminal point of view, the court discharged the claim. Thereby, the court based on a decision of the federal court from 2002, which stated that whoever does only play a role in the distribution of a punishable media product may not be held liable for an offence committed over media. This verdict was made in the context of the distribution / hanging insulting poster.

According to the Zurich District Court, forwarding tweets is part of the typical distribution chain of Twitter. Accordingly, a person who only shares a tweet with his followers may - from a criminal point of view - not be held liable for its content if he is not the author of the tweet.

The decision is not yet legally binding and the written judgment is still pending. Both parties accounced to challenge the decision.

* Dr. Andreas Glarner

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