Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Twitter Faces Criminal Complaint Over Hate-Speech Hashtags in France

Twitter has been hit with a $50 million (€38 million) criminal suit in the latest stage of a legal battle over a series of hate-speech hashtags in France. 

The company is being charged with failing to comply with a Jan. 24 ruling to hand over the identifying information of France-based users who participated in a series of anti-Semitic and racist trending topics during several days in October. Twitter CEO Dick Costolo also is named in the suit.

The French Jewish Student Union (UEJF) and anti-racism organization J’Accuse/International Action for Justice (AIPJ) are seeking $50 million (€38 million), an amount the groups say they will donate to the Shoah Memorial Fund. UEJF has repeatedly sought to get the California-based tech company to reveal personal details of French users who have violated the country's strict anti-hate speech laws.

The filing follows a monthslong fight over incendiary hashtags here. In October, after the hashtag #AGoodJew resulted in posts such as “a good Jew is a dead Jew” and spawned several copycat topics such as #ADeadJew, the UEJF requested that Twitter release identifying information of France-based users so that they could be prosecuted under anti-hate speech laws. The UEJF and Twitter entered into negotiations aimed at staving off legal action. Twitter agreed to remove the offending France-based tweets but refused to turn over the requested user information.

The UEJF quickly filed a suit to force Twitter to hand over the information, and a ruling in favor of the group was handed down Jan. 24. At the time, Twitter was given two weeks to comply or face fines of $1,300 (€1,000) per day. Twitter said it would review the decision but has made no move to hand over the data.

Twitter now has 15 days to respond to the criminal complaint and indicated late Thursday it will appeal the Jan. 24 decision. The company has maintained that it will not hand over the user information unless ordered to do so by a U.S. court.


Does free speech entail protection for anonymous speech?  Not necessarily  -- but anonymity is an important protection that allows people to say things that are unpopular or banned.  So I applaud Twitter for protecting anonymity.


Anonymous said...

In America, anonymous speech was absolutely what the Founding Fathers had in mind. Ben Franklin did not publish "Poor Richard's Almanac" because he thought "Poor Richard" was a better name than Ben Franklin. Anonymity is absolutely required in an environment where identification can lead to government intervention.

Anonymous said...

It's almost impossible nowadays to be anonymous on any level.

signed: Mr.A.N.Onimos (clearly a Greek national -?)

Anonymous said...

What we are seeing here is personal opinion, albeit offensive to some, being turned into a crime. The obvious question then becomes, would someone find (your) opinions offensive?