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Twitter sued for $50m after refusing to reveal anti-Semitic tweeter identities

Published time: March 24, 2013 10:32
AFP Photo/Nicholas Kamm

AFP Photo/Nicholas Kamm

The Union of Jewish French Students (UEJF) has sued Twitter and is pursuing further court action after the social networking site declined to expose names of anti-Semitic tweet authors, despite a French court ruling commanding their identification.

The case began in October 2012, when #UnBonJuif (a good Jew) and # UnJuifMort (a dead Jew) became popular tags for posts on Twitter. Over 350,000 tweets were posted.

In January, the French Court decision decreed that Twitter was bound to hand over the names of the authors of the tweets. The UEJF demanded that it release the names so that police action could be taken against the authors for ‘hate speech’.  

Twitter ignored the ruling, saying it was “currently reviewing the court’s decision” at the time of issue. It was given 15 days to either give up the names, or file an appeal. The ruling was exactly two months ago on Sunday.

It was said that Twitter would have to pay 1,000 euro (approximately US$1300) a day until it gave up the names. Given the time elapsed, it has left itself open to fines of around 44,000 euro (just over $57,000).

Action on this decision was still pending when UEJF filed the new $50 million lawsuit with a Paris correctional tribunal earlier this week. The lawsuit claims damages because of Twitter’s refusal to provide names.

The French government said that the tweets were illegal as they contravened laws prohibiting the publication of discriminatory or racist hate speech.

Twitter argued that because it was based in the US, it was therefore protected by the right to free speech enshrined in the US constitution’s first amendment. Still, it did delete the offending tweets.

Some neo-Nazi posts in Germany have also been filtered, and Twitter suspended the account of a neo-Nazi group following a government request last October.

“Twitter is playing the indifference card in not respecting the decision of January 24,”
Jonathan Hayoun, president of UEJF told AFP on Wednesday.

“In protecting the anonymity of the author of these tweets it is making itself an accomplice and offering a highway for racists and anti-Semites.”

A Twitter spokesperson told CNET that the new filing showed that the UEJF were “sadly more interested in grandstanding than taking the proper international legal path for this data.” The spokesperson went on to say that they would have filed an appeal sooner had it not been for the UEJF’s intentional delay in processing the court’s decision.

The UEJEF has said it will donate any financial gains to the Shoah Memorial Fund, which focuses on preserving the memory of the Holocaust.