French Twitter Lawsuit Pits Free Speech Against Hate Speech
I side with free speech even if it means protecting anonymous hate trolls in France. Hate speech laws just make the haters move underground, develop codes, and create clandestine organizations, it’s better when they can speak freely so you know who they are.
The French and German approach to this is wrong, and a violation of human rights. You have the right to hate, we have the right to know who you are except in the case where you live under oppressive speech laws. In those cases we must protect anonymity.
A French judge will decide this week if Twitter must hand over the identities of users sending anti-Semitic tweets. The case, brought against Twitter by a Jewish student organization, pits America’s free speech guarantees against Europe’s laws banning hate speech.
The controversy began in October, when the French Union of Jewish Students threatened to sue Twitter to get the names of people posting anti-Semitic tweets with the hashtag #unbonjuif, or “a good Jew.”
“If I type ‘un bon Juif’ … I can see it was full of tweets against Jews,” says Eli Petit, vice president of the Jewish student organization. “It was written, for example, ‘A good Jew is a dead Jew,’ ‘A good Jew is a burned Jew.’ “
Since then, a spate of racist and homophobic tweets — with hashtags equivalent to #ifmysonwasgay and #ifmydaughterbroughthomeablackman, in English — has followed, trending among the most popular in France.
The Jewish group’s lawsuit, demanding the identities of users who tweeted comments with anti-Semitic hashtags, is now backed by the country’s biggest anti-racism groups and the French government. Petit says they’re hopeful about the judge’s decision.
“We know that we’ll create a precedent in justice and … all these hateful speeches will be condemned, and this feeling of impunity for the people that posted these tweets will be erased,” he says.