The French-language version of Twitter has been an ugly and contentious place lately, and the French government is taking action. With recent hashtags of #SiMonFilsEstGay (if my son is gay), #UnBonJuif (a good Jew), and #SiMaFilleRamèneUnNoir (if my daughter brings home a black guy), the Grand Instance Court in Paris has ordered Twitter to create a way to alert French authorities of illegal content when an offending tweet is sent out. Not only that, but the court has ordered Twitter to reveal the identity or identities of the Twitter users who are sending out the racist tweets.
The pressure began last fall when the Union of Jewish Students (UEJF), a French advocacy group, leaned on Twitter to remove anti-semetic tweets. The problem began when the UEJF also requested information about those who sent the tweets, and Twitter did not comply, causing the UEJF to take Twitter to court.
In handing down the order for Twitter to disclose the identities of the culprits, the French court gave Twitter two weeks to comply, or face daily fines equalling $1,336 USD until they do. Says UEJF vice president, Sacha Reingewirtz, “We’re not able to identify the individuals, only Twitter can do so. We’ve already tweeted the decision. And we see on Twitter that the decision has apparently triggered a new rise of anti-semitic messages directed against our organization, so there is still work to be done, both by us and Twitter, but we’re happy the French justice is now changing the way it is.”
France has historically taken a strong stance when it comes to online racism, with former president Nicolas Sarkozy even proposing a law that just viewing a hate site be considered a criminal act. The European Union as a whole, unlike America, does not protect hate speech and most EU states, and some non-EU European countries, have made it illegal.
Twitter has said, of the court’s order, simply “we are currently reviewing the court’s decision.”