A French anti-discrimination group is holding Twitter's feet to the fire, demanding that the social media site reveal the identities of a handful of users who posted anti-Semitic tweets during the lifespan of a racial-charged trending hashtag back in October.
The French Jewish Students Union (UEJF) has filed a summons against Twitter, hoping that the company will give up the users so that they can be prosecuted under local anti-hate speech laws.
The tweets in question stem from a particular hashtag that trended on the site a little over a month ago. #unbonjuif, translated in English to mean "a good jew," led some Twitter users to post inflammatory images, holocaust jokes, and other unsavory messages. For instance, one Twitter user posted a photo of a dustpan alongside the #unbonjuif hashtag - clearly offensive.
After pressure from the UEJF, Twitter agreed to remove the tweets on their own volition, as well as to wipe tweets containing another controversial hashtag prompting similar tweets about Muslims.
"Twitter does not mediate content. 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," said Twitter in a statement. But the action was seen as a mediation of content by some, although Twitter's terms clearly gives the company the right to remove any content it wants, really.
"We reserve the right at all times (but will not have an obligation) to remove or refuse to distribute any Content on the Services," says Twitter in their TOS. They also state that Twitter users "may not use our service for any unlawful purposes or in furtherance of illegal activities. International users agree to comply with all local laws regarding online conduct and acceptable content.”
Apparently, deletion of the offending tweets wasn't enough. The UEJF wants to hold those responsible accountable, and they want Twitter's help.
Twitter, who has broadcast their firm support of free speech and user privacy protection in the past, has also made some decisions as of late that have thrown that commitment into question (at least in the eyes of free speech activists). Back in September, Twitter finally gave in the Manhattan D.A.'s office and handed over old, inaccessible tweets of an Occupy Wall Street protester. To be fair to Twitter, they fought it tooth and nail, only caving when facing a hefty fine.
Back in January, Twitter also gave themselves the ability to locally censor content. "we give ourselves the ability to reactively withhold content from users in a specific country — while keeping it available in the rest of the world. We have also built in a way to communicate transparently to users when content is withheld, and why," they said.
It took Twitter nearly nine months to use this ability, when at that time they blocked a neo-Nazi account in Germany only, leaving it accessible for the rest of the world. In the case of the #unbonjuif tweets, Twitter didn't employ their local censoring tactic - they simply yanked them from the site altogether.[France Info via The Next Web]