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.
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It is interesting to see just how far the French government and courts are willing to go to censor and control a foreign media like Twitter on one hand, while defending the rights of a French company to publish Muslim cartoons on the other. What many would argue to be an obvious double standard.
Cigarettes KILL staggering numbers of people while the French government and courts do nothing to enforce the rights and protect the lives of non-smokers to breathe clean, safe air. It's easier to publicly go after an American internet company in the name of cracking down on the rascists online.
So if someone screams "FIRE" in a theater, do you prosecute the theater for the actions of one crazy patron? If you prosecute Twitter, how can you NOT go after Google, Yahoo, MSN? And police mobile phone text messages and prosecute the cellular providers, and private land phone lines? How is the French government actually going to enforce this law against companies that operate worldwide online? And at what cost to French taxpayers? What about the counter-suits which are sure to follow? What if these services providers simply decide to cut off these services? It's one thing for the courts and government of France to take a public stance against these rascist thugs, but the devils is in the details if they decide to go down this path of enforcement.
Free speech is not guaranteed to anonymous cowards.
I have been in my life a free speech absolutist — a Jew who defended the Nazis right to march in Skokie Illinois even to the distress of a community of Holocaust survivors — someone who profoundly believes that the solution to dishonest speech is honest speech, not censorship.
However, I draw the line here. There is no right to say hideous hateful things from behind the veil of anonymity. That is a law to protect cowards, who deserve no protection.
At the same time, I oppose the laws against hate-speech, for a simple reason. I want to know who these bigots are; what they believe and what they seek to obtain by organizing the cowards, losers and liars of this world, against an imaginary enemy, who they have picked to be their next victim.
What you guys are forgetting is that with the power of free speech on this level, with the ability to send whatever hate-filled thought you come up with in an instant to an incredibly large audience, comes an even greater responsibility. The laws of free speech dictate that you can say whatever you want, as long as it does not endanger the life of anyone else. For example, free speech does not allow you to run into a crowded movie theater and scream "FIRE" at the top of your lungs. It would incite panic, and could endanger people's lives. With the advent of instant messaging on a huge level, and the reactions it garners, (flash mobs for example,) you cannot simply let a bunch of racists incite hate-filled violence against people. The government of France is doing what they can to do their job: Protect the people it is responsible to govern.
Combating the ignorance of racism by killing Freedom of Speech? And the French courts and government think this makes sense? Given some time to address their own ignorance of technology, I would think and hope the French courts and government will adopt a more intelligent approach, but who knows?
See my full response at Gulf News:
Being an American of Polish ancestry born in France with a hint of Jewish blood on my grand paternal side, I do understand what racism is and suffered from it my entire life and yet just like JJJ wrote, I would give my life to protect Freedom of Speech. Once this is gone, then humanity will be gone also. If twitter bow down to the french government then it's no longer a service worthy of trust (if there was any trust to begin with). Anyhow, shame on the guys who wrote the tweets but also SHAME on the one who started the entire thing. You are killing freedom and thus you are just as bad as the ones who were writing the racist comments.
I think all the US technology companies that don't share the same laws as France should ban their offering in France. Google. Yahoo. Twitter, who else? Just leave, not worth the hassle. So much easier than dealing with their insane mentality. Besides, they resent the US for having developed this technology - and not the Great French themselves. Perhaps with a good stroke of jealousy too. Leave France in the dark ages, along with her Napoleonic code, where she belongs. This country is like a big, bad hemorrhoid that won't go away.
Why stop with just Twitter? How about France forcing Google and MSN to identify and turn over anybody who sends a racist email? That'll keep the French courts busy for awhile.
France's Union of Jewish Students (UEJF) seeks to silence thoughts and opinions it does not want to hear. We are talking about thoughts and opinions here, not physical violence, not extortion, not theft, not murder. The rights of nearly 7 billion people becomes violated when courts make such judgements. Attributed to one less than insignificant philosopher: “I detest what you write, but I would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write.” Those who conduct or incite censorship are committing a crime against humanity.
Twitter is not responsible for content, and the number of these illegal tweets is extremely small in comparison to the Twitter universe. Criminals should not be able to hide behind technology, even if it is a non-Frence organization. Twitter's management is wise to support the French Courts, otherwise it would be obstructing justice. One problem may be finding the LOCATION from where the tweet was made. If the tweet was made outside the jurisdiction of the French courts, but was viewed in France, then what is the power of the French courts? This will take years to resolve completely, but we can be sure that France does not tolerate this type of tweeting.
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