Legal aid to reporter sentenced for comments not removed spontaneously

Ossigeno and Media Defence assist Fabio Butera sentenced for €33,000 damages by Court of Verona, a precedent that exposes all social media users to greater risk

OSSIGENO May 5th  2023 – We are highlighting a sentence that affects all those who have a profile on social networks. For not having immediately removed some offensive comments added by other people at the end of his post, the journalist Fabio Butera was ordered to pay 33,000 euro in compensation and legal costs in a sentence that risks introducing a new form of strict liability for those who have a social network profile.

From today, to avoid unpleasant surprises, one must always read the comments that are added to one’s posts and immediately remove the comments (that is, even if no one requests it) that may offend the reputation of third parties. Anyone who doesn’t do so risks being held responsible for the content, together with its authors, even if the Facebook page owner hasn’t even read those comments, no one has pointed them out and the owner doesn’t share them.

What happened? In short, the journalist Fabio Butera published an article on Facebook, criticizing an individual. Subsequently some other users added their comments. The person criticized, feeling offended by the article, sued for defamation the journalist who was prosecuted for his article. In the dispute, the journalist was assisted by the Legal Department of Ossigeno, which from the beginning believed in the validity of his criticisms. This validity  was acknowledged by the Civil Court of Verona on April 5th  2023 which acquitted Fabio Butera for his article.

The Verona ruling states that that article was not defamatory but nevertheless it punishes the journalist for some further comments on his article; comments that had not been disputed at the start of the lawsuit which, however, were judged defamatory. For not having immediately removed them the journalist was sentenced to pay 33,000 euro in compensation and legal costs to the person who had sued him.

In fact, he hadn’t read those comments, no one had pointed them out to him but it was ruled that he should have read them, judged them defamatory and acted to remove them according to the sentence which confirms his direct responsibility. This dispute creates a precedent that could change the way of dealing with this matter by exposing social media users to much greater responsibility.

The lawyer Andrea Di Pietro, who together with the lawyer Emilia Rosa Faraglia defended Fabio Butera on behalf of Ossigeno‘s Free Legal Aid commented on the sentence as follows:

 “This sentence deserves to be criticized on a legal level, as it introduces a form of objective liability of for omission, without there being a real evidential proof of Butera’s alleged willful misconduct in resolutely keeping the published comments of third parties. Furthermore, there is no proof that Butera was aware of their defamatory nature”.

Ossigeno will defend Fabio Butera in the appeal with which he will ask for his acquittal.


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