Prosecutors accused Perrin of not deleting third-party comments on his Facebook wall in April 2019 that called for hatred and violence against people because of their religion. These comments were legible for the general public. Perrin had previously made disparaging comments about Muslims in connection with an article in the newspaper “24 heures” about the Qatar Papers and the Muslim Brotherhood on the social network.
In the judgment published on Friday, the Federal Supreme Court confirmed the decisions of the lower courts. The Neuchâtel police court in July 2020 and the cantonal court in September 2021 had already acquitted Perrin. The public prosecutor demanded a conditional fine of 90 daily rates with a probationary period of two years for the 55-year-old.
The Lausanne judges justified the acquittal in particular with the lack of a legal basis. The applicable Swiss law does not contain any standard for the criminal liability of Internet service providers such as Facebook or the users of such networks.
The Federal Supreme Court ruled out criminal liability for Perrin because, as the owner of the Facebook account, he had no knowledge of the posts in question. It found that the defendant had created a risk for the filing of unlawful contributions by making his message board public and addressing sensitive political issues.
According to the Lausanne judges, however, this danger only exceeds what is socially permissible if the person concerned was aware of the content of the problematic content that was added to his wall. However, the owner of the Facebook account did not know until the criminal proceedings were opened that illegal third-party content was to be found there.
Furthermore, the defendant cannot be accused of having remained inactive in a criminal manner, in breach of his duties, by not having looked after the content on his pinboard. Such an obligation to monitor and manage a social media account by its account holder cannot be made dependent on the criteria invoked by the public prosecutor’s office in this regard.
The criteria mentioned by the public prosecutor’s office included the explosive nature of the topics in question, the circle of potential recipients of the posts, or the number and conspicuousness of the comments posted in response to the original post.
According to the Federal Supreme Court, a corresponding obligation to monitor would be based entirely on a delicate, difficult to predict and obviously subjective assessment. This would also result in an almost permanent, comprehensive and thus extremely far-reaching duty of care. Since no legal norm expressly provides for this, the principle of legality (“no punishment without law”) would be violated.
For several years, Perrin was considered a figurehead and a beacon of hope for the SVP in French-speaking Switzerland. The former National Councilor and Neuchâtel State Councilor is keeping more in the background politically today. In the position of General Secretary, the 55-year-old supports the Geneva SVP in preparing for the 2023 cantonal elections. (Judgment 6B_1360/2021 of April 7, 2022)