Security

Twitter releases personal account details of alleged anti-Semites to French government

Image Credit: French flag image via Shutterstock

The Union of French Jewish Students is claiming victory today in a several-month battle with Twitter over releasing personal account details of Twitter users who tweeted anti-Semitic statements.

“This agreement with Twitter represents a great victory in the struggle against racism and anti-Semitism,” Jonathan Hayoun, president of the Union of French Jewish Students, said in a statement. “Twitter has finally accepted its responsibility on hate prevention as a prominent player on the Web. That is a great step to fight against the feeling of impunity on the Internet.”

Last year some French citizens posted a number of racist tweets to Twitter with the hashtag #unbonjuif (a good Jew) — violating French law. In January, therefore, a French court ordered Twitter to release details that would help authorities locate the authors of anti-Semitic tweets, and the Union sued Twitter for almost 40 million euros ($50 million) in damages in March, saying it would hand over any proceeds to Shoah Memorial, a fund for remembering and learning the lessons of the Holocaust.

Twitter has long been reluctant to cooperate with authorities who are seeking personal information on its users, having decided to prioritize Twitter users’ privacy and free speech rights, and it has openly revealed in annual “transparency reports” how many information requests, removal requests, and copyright violation notices it receives from global authorities.

“These growing inquiries can have a serious chilling effect on free expression – and real privacy implications,” Twitter legal policy manager Jeremy Kessel said in January.

Twitter’s user-protective policies, however, may be coming to an end somewhat, as the Union of French Jewish Students says that they’re now working with Twitter to establish an easier reporting mechanism for racist and “unlawful” tweets.

This communication puts an end to the dispute between the parties who have agreed to continue to work actively together in order to fight racism and anti-Semitism, in compliance with their respective national legislation, especially by taking measures in order to establish an easily accessible and noticeable reporting system to deal with unlawful tweets.

User reaction on Twitter is mixed, as you might expect, with some people taking the position that privacy and free speech are worth protecting at almost any cost while others saying that anti-Semitism deserves to be hunted down.

But of course the French student union is happy.

“The Union of French Jewish Students is proud to have reached an agreement with the company Twitter on fighting racism and anti-Semitism on the Internet,” the organization said in a statement. “This puts an end to the legal proceedings started by the Union of French Jewish Students against Twitter that had led to the conviction of Twitter before the French criminal courts on January 24th, 2013.”

What that statement clearly leaves out, however, is any mention of the $50 million lawsuit the organization initiated in March.

Twitter released a joint statement about the release of data with the Union of French Jewish Students:

Further to discussions between the Parties and in response to a valid legal request, Twitter has provided the prosecutor of Paris, Presse et Libertés Publiques section of the Paris Tribunal de Grande Instance, with data that may enable the identification of certain users that the Vice-Prosecutor believes have violated French law.

This disclosure puts an end to the dispute between the Parties, which have agreed to actively continue contributing together to the fight against racism and anti-Semitism, in keeping with their respective domestic laws and regulations, such as by taking measures to improve the accessibility of the reporting procedure of illegal Tweets.