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Twitter hands over data on anti-Semitic tweeters

Published: 12 Jul 2013 11:19 GMT+02:00

Twitter has handed over data to French authorities to help identify the authors of anti-Semitic tweets following a complaint from a Jewish students' group, AFP reported on Friday.

Twitter said in a statement that it had given information to judicial authorities "enabling the identification of some authors" of anti-Semitic tweets..

A French court in January ordered the company to provide the data after the complaint from France's Union of Jewish Students (UEJF).

The ruling followed a legal complaint lodged in October by UEJF which argued that numerous tweets had breached French law prohibiting incitement to racial hatred.

The union took the legal action against Twitter to force the site to reveal details on people who posted a slew of anti-Semitic hate messages.

Following the ruling the court said Twitter must now do this "within the framework of its French site".

But after an apparent failure to do so the UEJF took further action and announced in March it was the sue the company's CEO Dick Costolo.

The association claimed €38.5 million ($50 million) in damages which they would hand over to the Shoah Memorial fund, according to the text of the summons for Twitter to appear before the civil court's criminal division.

Twitter said on Friday the move "puts an end to the dispute" with the UEJF and that the two parties had "agreed to continue to work actively together in order to fight racism and anti-Semitism"

Speaking to The Local on Friday Elie Petit, the vice president of the UEJF, said they were delighted to have finally reached an agreement with Twitter.

"We are proud to have achieved this in the battle against racism and anti-Semitism. At last Twitter have agreed to respect French law," he said.

The union had been pressing Twitter to exercise tighter control of what appeared on its Internet site following a deluge of anti-Semitic messages posted under the hashtag #unbonjuif (#agoodjew)

"Obviously it was frustrating that it took months. I think the legal pressure played a big role but also Twitter itself appeared to understand the responsibility  they have to fight racism and anti-Semitism on the internet.

"In France acts of anti-Semitism have risen 58 percent. When someone writes 'a good Jew is a bad Jew' etc on Twitter millions of people see it," Petit said.

"Twitter might be good for democracy but it's also a way for racists to share their message. People are spending more and more time on line and its important they respect a country's laws online just as much as off it."

UEJF President Jonathan Hayoun said Twitter's move was "a great victory in the fight against racism and anti-Semitism" and "a big step in the fight against the feeling of impunity on the Internet".

"This agreement is reminder that you cannot do anything you want on the Internet. Twitter will no longer be a conduit for racists and anti-Semites where their anonymity will be protected," he said.

Last October, Twitter suspended the account of a neo-Nazi group in Germany following a request from the government in Berlin.

That was the first time that the US firm had applied a policy known as "country-withheld content", which allows it to block an account at the request of state authorities.

AFP/The Local (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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