Anyone who posts false information on Facebook that triggers a police investigation risks criminal proceedings. A recent case in Zug provides an example.
Two young people recently attacked a 52 year old man in the city of Zug, slashing the corner of his mouth. Shortly after the attack, a woman posted a comment on Facebook saying that one of her friends had been attacked in the same place two weeks earlier.
Zug’s police took the woman’s Facebook comment seriously and launched an inquiry, before concluding the woman’s post was false. The woman is now facing prosecution for an offense that can result in fines and imprisonment of up to three years. Swiss law states that it is illegal to mislead the country’s legal authorities. The courts must first prove that the person providing the information knew it was false.
According to 20 Minuten, there are no statistics on the number of cases like this in Switzerland. In recent years around one hundred cases of misrepresentation have been recorded in Bern and Zurich, however cantonal police were unable to say how many of them were associated with social media.
Martin Steiger, a lawyer specializing in IT and media law, points out that the criminal code refers to statements made directly to the legal authorities, however a statement, not provided directly to the authorities, which is then passed on to them might fit the definition, although in his view, the police force might not fit the definition of legal authorities.
Frank Kleiner, a spokesperson for Zug’s law enforcement authority, told 20 Minuten that this behaviour wastes police time and affects the security of the population. Irrespective of the legal consequences, he thinks people should avoid doing it.