Twitter must identify racist, anti-Semitic posters, French court says
http://www.cnn.com/2013/01/24/tech/social-media/twitter-racist-posts-france/index.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed: rss/cnn_topstories (RSS: Top Stories)
For months now, the French-language twittersphere has lit up with a rash of racist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic tweets using the hashtags #UnBonJuif (a good Jew), #SiMonFilsEstGay (if my son is gay), and #SiMaFilleRamèneUnNoir (if my daughter brings home a black guy).
Last fall, under pressure from French advocacy group Union of Jewish Students (UEJF), Twitter agreedto remove some offensive tweets. In October 2012, at Berlin’s request, Twitter also suspendeda German neo-Nazi account based in the city of Hanover, the first time the company had responded to such a government request.
However, at the time, the UEJF also wanted identifying information of the perpetrators, which Twitter was not prepared to give up. So the group went to court to force the issue.
On Thursday, the Grand Instance Court in Paris ordered Twitter to identify the authors of anti-semitic tweets by creating a mechanism (Google Translate) to alert French authorities to “illegal content,” on its French site “in a visible and easily-accessible [way].”
In the U.S., of course, this would be a complete non-starter. If you want to write racist, homophobic, or anti-Semitic things on Twitter, we think you have the right to do so without fear of punishment by the government. Some people in the U.S. think that’s insufficient protection and that there shouldn’t be any consequences at all for hate speech online. They’re wrong, of course; people are free to write whatever they’d like online and I’m free to repost their words or write about what they’ve written.
But in Europe, freedom of speech isn’t sacrosanct … or, to be more specific, hate speech isn’t protected there in the way that it’s protected here. And so we see the French courts are now ordering Twitter to turn over information about those who use the social network to spread racist, homophobic, or anti-Semitic messages, presumably to prosecute them.
It’s not our way to deal with hate speech … but it’s certainly a way to do it. American racists, homophobes, and anti-Semites are no doubt breathing a sigh of relief as they take to Twitter today.
HT: Jordan Soliz.