Thursday 24th of January 2013 – a French court (Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris) ordered Twitter to remove the anonymity of Twitter users posting racist tweets.
The case started in November 2012, when a few French associations acting against racism, notably the Union des Etudiants Juifs de France [in French] (French Jewish Students Union – UEJF) and the Association J’accuse – action internationale pour la justice, took legal action against Twitter in France. These associations asked Twitter to identify people posting anti-Semitic and racist tweets in order to permit the French Justice system to condemn them. Notably, those who were using the hashtags #Unbonjuif (a good Jew) or #sijetaisnazi (if I were Nazi).
At the first hearing of the case [in French], Tuesday 8th of January 2013, Twitter’s lawyer Maître Alexandra Neri declared that “Twitter’s data are collected and stored in the United States”, by Twitter as an American company subject to US law, and not to French law. In her defence speech, Maître Alexandra Neri also asked to the Court if “[Twitter] is subject to the law of all countries where it is used?”. Finally she noted that Twitter cannot give access to its data without the authorisation of the US courts, and she argue that in this kind of situation, the French judiciary must ask to the US to seize the data and to transmit it.
In addition to the legal side of this case, there is a growing political side; indeed, some French politicians picked the case up. The French Junior Minister for the Digital Economy, Fleur Pellerin, declared that Twitter must conform to the European legal system and human rights [see notably the two last paragraphs of her portrait in The New York Times]. Also, the French Minister of Women’s Rights and Government spokeperson, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, who has published an opinion column in Le Monde [in French], asked Twitter to find a way to control users’ publications with racist or homophobic content and warned Twitter against future possible legal action in France or in Europe.
A first official meeting is scheduled for the 8th of February 2013 between Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, the French Minister of Women’s Rights and Government spokeperson, Macgillivray, Twitter’s chief lawyer, and Del Harvey, Twitter’s Director of Trust and Safety. A few additional interested parties and associations will also participate in the meeting.