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France orders Twitter to identify racist users

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-01-24

A French court ruled Thursday that Twitter must help identify the authors of racist tweets posted on its site. The ruling follows a complaint brought by an activist group in October that argued such tweets breach laws against inciting racial hatred.

Microblogging site Twitter must hand over data to help identify users who post racist and anti-Semitic comments, a French court ruled on Thursday.

Twitter was the subject of legal action by Jewish student group the UEJF and other associations, following a swathe of postings in October using hashtags (which group and identify postings according to a theme) including #UnBonJuif [A Good Jew] and #UnJuifMort [A Dead Jew].

Twitter deleted some posts, but this did not stop users continuing in the same vein, with popular hashtags appearing in December and January such as #UnBonNoir [A Good Black] and #SiJetaisNazi [If I was a Nazi].

In bringing legal action against the site, which is hosted in the US, the associations demanded that Twitter make it easier for users to flag racist or anti-Semitic content, while helping to identify those who had posted the hashtags with associated comments so that they could be prosecuted under France’s tough anti-racism laws.

No Moderation

Twitter - which has steadfastly refused calls to police its millions of users - insisted at the time that while it would respond to complaints and close accounts of users posting offensive comments, it “did not moderate” what was posted.

In October a spokesman for the website said: "If we are alerted to content that may be in violation of our terms of service, we will investigate each report and respond according to the policies and procedures outlined in our support pages."

These state that Twitter cannot delete tweets but can suspend accounts generating content in breach of its rules or considered illegal.

The site had also said it would only hand over details of account holders if ordered to do so by a judge.

An end to impunity

French judges on Thursday ordered Twitter to implement means by which authors of racist posts can be identified “within the framework of its French site”.

“This is an excellent ruling that will stop a feeling of impunity among Twitter users that they can post whatever comments they like,” the associations’ lawyer Stephane Lilti told reporters on Thursday.

Twitter has 15 days to comply with the order, failing which it will be fined 1,000 euros a day until it does.

Twitter executives are due to meet French ministers on February 8, following complaints about homophobic comments on the site.

Date created : 2013-01-24


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