'You don't have to name to defame on Facebook'

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The case involves a financial inspector for the Italian Finance Police who published defamatory content on his Facebook profile. Facebook photo: Shutterstock
12:26 CEST+02:00
Facebook users in Italy may want to think twice next time they post something on the social networking site after the country’s highest court ruled that insults on the site – even ones with an unnamed target – could be regarded as defamatory.

The landmark case in question involves an inspector for the Italian finance police who published defamatory content on his Facebook profile.

According to Rome daily Il Messaggero, the man wrote that his position had been undermined by "the arrival of a highly recommended colleague and ass-licker”, before proceeding to insult the wife of the man in question.

As a result, the man was found guilty of defamation and sentenced to three months in prison by a court in Rome. 

The man was then acquitted in an appeal hearing after a court ruled that, since the victim’s name and occupation had not been mentioned and no reference made to chronology, he could only be identified by a small number of people.

However in the latest appeal at the Court of Cassation, Italy's highest court, the prosecutor proved that colleagues and friends of the accused would in fact be able to identify the victim.

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According to the court, defamation does not necessarily require specific intent but simply the “awareness of pronouncing a sentence damaging to another’s reputation, and that the sentence is seen by just two people”. 

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