Twitter Sued For $50 Million In France For Protecting Identity Of Hateful Twitter Users (Even Though It Deleted The Tweets)
from the i-may-not-like-what-you-say,-but-i'll-fight-for-your-right-to-say-it dept
Last year the Union of Jewish French Students (UEJF) sued Twitter, because a bunch of people in France start tweeting ridiculous anti-semitic tweets as some sort of weird anti-semitic hashtag became popular in France:
Last October, the UEJF sued Twitter after the hashtag “#unBonJuif” (French for “#aGoodJew”) became the third most popular trending topic on Twitter in France. With so many tweets indexed under that hashtag, many users took the opportunity to post Holocaust jokes, racially charged statements (e.g. “#aGoodJew is a dead jew”), photos of dustpans filled with dust, and even calls to kill more Jews.
Even though it’s a strong defender of free speech, Twitter agreed to remove the tweets in question as offensive. As someone who is Jewish and who is quite offended by anti-semitism, I still think this was the wrong move. Censoring ignorant speech does nothing to fix things. Ignorant speech should be countered with non-ignorant speech. That said, Twitter made its decision and removed the tweets.
Turns out, that wasn’t enough. The UEJF demanded the identities of everyone who tweeted such anti-semitic remarks. Twitter refused, but lost in court. Afterwards, it still refused to pass along the info, and so the UEJF has now filed a second lawsuit, seeking $50 million.
“Twitter is playing the indifference card and does not respect the ruling,” Hayoun told AFP. “They have resolved to protect the anonymity of the authors of these tweets and have made themselves accomplices to racists and anti-Semites.”
Either that or they’re pushing back against a lynchmob mentality, and protecting at least some precepts of free speech and an expectation of privacy. What’s incredible, frankly, is that while Europe is known to have less respect for free speech principles than the US, it tends to have greater respect for privacy rights. Apparently not in this case, however.
Twitter has put out a statement suggesting that the UEJF is much more interested in using this for publicity purposes than anything else:
“We’ve been in continual discussions with UEJF,” a Twitter spokesperson told CNET. “As yesterday’s new filing shows, they are sadly more interested in grandstanding than taking the proper international legal path for this data. We are filing our appeal today, and would have filed it sooner if not for UEJF’s intentional delay in processing the court’s decision.”
Even more ridiculous is that it appears that it’s not just Twitter being sued, but Twitter CEO Dick Costolo. If this all sounds vaguely familiar, that may be because a decade ago, Yahoo faced a similar ridiculous situation, in which both the company and its CEO were charged as war criminals (no joke!) because Yahoo’s non-France websites sold some Nazi memorabilia (they blocked it on Yahoo’s French sites). At some point, people bringing these kinds of lawsuits have to realize how counterproductive they are. I’m extremely sympathetic to their offense at the ignorant tweets, but their legal actions take away all of that sympathy.