A 52-year-old Swedish man has been convicted for “hate” comments posted in a social media group, despite the comments having been written by other people.
The “hate” comments were written in the Facebook group “Stand up for Sweden” and contained material that was deemed to have broken Swedish law against threats or intimidation towards ethnic groups, Swedish broadcaster SVT reports.
The 52-year-old, who was the administrator of the group, was found guilty of breaking the BBS Act of 1998, according to news website Nyheter Idag, which held him liable for not deleting the comments made in the group, even though he had not made them himself.
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Should the case not be overturned by appeal in the supreme court, it will be the first conviction under the law.
The 52-year-old denied having committed a crime saying that he had not even seen the comments that were highlighted and it was noted that the group has around 162,000 members and saw three million comments per year.
A witness from the NGO Juridik Fronten (Legal Front), a group which engages in “opinion-forming activities related to nationalist right-wing populism and violent offences”, claimed that they had sent a pdf file of hate comments to the defendant.
The man claimed that he had not opened the file, telling the court he did not open attachments from people he did not know and therefore had not seen the comments.
After finding the 52-year-old guilty, the court sentenced him to 60 days of daily fines, a conditional sentence, and required him to pay 40,250 Swedish kronor (£3,425/$4,347) for legal fees.
The case was reported to police initially by the online social justice activist group Näthatsgranskaren which has been touted as being responsible for a rise in investigations and prosecutions for online hate speech in Sweden.
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The group was founded in 2017 by former police officer Tomas Åberg who described the group’s work in 2018 saying: “We have developed a programme that searches for criminal networks on social media by searching for keywords, combinations of words, and phrases that can constitute criminal acts.”
Åberg also admitted the majority of those reported were elderly men and women, including a 70-year-old man who was convicted earlier this year after being reported to the police by the organisation for writing on Facebook that Somalis were”lazy”.