Twitter has lost its latest appeal in a racist tweet controversy that’s persisted for nearly 8 months. According to a French court, following French law is not optional for U.S.-based Twitter, and they will be compelled to turn over the identities of users deemed in violation of French anti-discrimination laws.
It’s a long story, but here’s the quick version. Back in October of 2012, a hashtag emerged on Twitter that many users found gravely offensive. The hashtag, #unbonjuif, roughly translates to “a good jew” in English. The hashtag was used to make anti-Semitic jokes – like posting a photo of a dustpan alongside the hashtag. Soon, a few French anti-racism groups spearhead by the French Jewish Students Union (UEJF) demanded that Twitter remove the offending tweets. After enough pressure mounted as to become unbearable, Twitter finally caved.
But the tweet removal didn’t satisfy the UEJF. They then demanded that Twitter disclose the identities of the anti-Semitic users so that they could ace prosecution under local anti-discrimination laws. Twitter drew the line there, and it led to a lawsuit.
In January, a French court ordered Twitter to provide the identities of the users. Twitter said that they would review the decision, and proceeded to appeal.
Back in March, the UEJF sued Twitter for $50 million for witholding the identities of the anti-Semitic users.
And that brings us up to date. Now, a French court has rejected Twitter’s appeal.
“We have made significant progress with Twitter since December. Associations that fight against discrimination can intervene to stop the avalanche of hate speech that regularly pour [out] on the Internet. But illegal [messages] posted on Twitter remain no less illegal, and the application of French law is not [optional],”, said a government spokesperson. “Twitter must execute court decisions to allow identification, and thus the conviction of the perpetrators of these heinous tweets ”
The UEJF applauded the court’s decision.
“The French Justice confirms that Twitter is ultimately responsible for racist and anti-Semitic content posted by users, as the UEJF argued for months. That Twitter can no longer play with the French justice was extremely clear. Our goal is to put a halt to the feeling of impunity for racist and anti-Semitic authors on the Internet. Twitter must cooperate when this is the case,” said the group’s president, Jonathan Hayoun.
“We are disappointed that the Court has decided not to hear our appeal,” said Twitter in a statement. “We are considering our options, including resubmitting the appeal.”