Racism and racist propaganda are abhorrent, and a scourge on our societies. As “enlightened” as our modern world has become in certain respects, it will continue to be a problem we deal with far into the future. Every effort should be made to condemn racism and prevent its seed from being sown. But how far can and should governments go to control speech (and even thought)?
Murder, theft, arson are all crimes, but you can’t punish someone for merely thinking about committing any of these acts. We can punish a person for what they do, and in some cases for what they say (if inciting violence here in the States), but this Swiss ruling seems right on the line of attempting to punish someone for what they think (hate speech is illegal in Switzerland).
It’s easy to say “all racists should be put away”, but if the way a person thinks can be criminalized, then any thought could be made a crime. If an oppressive government came into power, it could be made a crime to “like” a post that mentions revolution, or outlines the corruptness of the people in power. See: North Korea
What are your thoughts on this? As citizens are more and more being surveilled online and in public, where do we (or should we) draw the line between free speech & thought and criminal activity?
Related: Should hate speech be made illegal in the U.S.?
Media lawyer Martin Steiger told the Tages Anzeiger in 2017 that the intent element of the case was the crucial factor.
“It always depends on what a ‘like’ means and what someone was aiming to achieve with it,” Steiger told the paper. “A ‘like’ doesn’t always mean that someone likes the content of a post. If, for instance, there’s an accident, then it also means expressing sympathy. Or that you find it good that someone shares something on Facebook.”
Steiger added that because the defendant had clearly indicated his intent was to spread the content, the ruling was “not necessarily unjustified.”