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Twitter faces potential legal action over anti-Semitic tweets in France

Two groups are looking to hold Twitter—and thousands of its users—accountable for anti-Semitic remarks posted earlier this month. 


Kris Holt


Twitter and thousands of its users are facing possible legal action in France after a deluge of anti-Semitic tweets.

Last week, the hashtag #unbonjuif (“a good Jew”) was used to spread anti-Semitic gags by users in France. It became a trending topic on Oct. 10, though the tag was used for several days afterwards to make controversial jokes about Jews.

France 24 noted that the jokes come at a time when the level of hate crimes are on the increase in the country, and anti-racist groups are looking towards the courts to fight back against the Twitter users in question.

SOS Racisme Director Guillaume Ayne said the group’s lawyers are exploring all possible legal avenues over the tweets. “We absolutely have to tell people that just because they are sitting behind a computer, they can’t assume they’ll get away with making racist comments,” Ayne told France 24.

Moreover, the French Jewish Students Union plans to lodge a complaint at a Paris court. It wants Twitter to not only scrub all references to the hashtag and remove the tweets in question but to also hand over the provide the IP addresses of the jokers, which could be used to identify them.

Jonathan Hayoun, the group’s president, said, “[E]veryone has to take legal responsibility for their actions and statements.” He added that if the complaint is accepted, the court would demand that Twitter comply with the requests. If that does not happen, the French Jewish Students Union “will go after Twitter itself as the responsible publisher.”

A key challenge facing anti-racist groups is the fact that Twitter is based in the U.S., and it can be difficult to obtain the personal details of the people in question from the company. That is an issue that authorities in Australia had to contend with as they attempted to snuff out trolls.

Yet the legal measures may go beyond those who posted the tweets. France has strict racism laws, and Twitter is also liable for the comments those people made on its site, according to one lawyer.

“Twitter has to improve its reaction to events like these so that the justice system can quickly identify who has made posts that are illegal under French anti-racism laws,” Gérard Haas told France 24. “Organisations that have the resources to take people to court should do so, in the greatest numbers possible, to send out a strong message that the freedom of the Internet does not mean carte blanche to break the law.”

Photo by fdecomite/Flickr

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