French fashion bible Elle has denied charges of racism after unleashing a storm by suggesting that a black American elite, inspired by the Obama couple, was finally embracing "white" fashion.

"/> French fashion bible Elle has denied charges of racism after unleashing a storm by suggesting that a black American elite, inspired by the Obama couple, was finally embracing "white" fashion.

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Elle denies Obama fashion piece ‘racist’

French fashion bible Elle has denied charges of racism after unleashing a storm by suggesting that a black American elite, inspired by the Obama couple, was finally embracing "white" fashion.

Elle denies Obama fashion piece 'racist'
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The January 13th blog post entitled “Black fashion power” has drawn volleys of angry protest on both sides of the Atlantic, with the New York Daily News tabloid saying it managed to “insult black Americans as a whole”.

In the piece, which has since been removed from Elle’s website, journalist Nathalie Dolivo cited singers Erykah Badu or Rihanna and the actress Zoe Saldana, as black Americans who understood “the importance of style”.

“In an America governed for the first time by a black American president, chic has become a plausible option for a community up until then bound by its streetwear codes,” she wrote.

“In 2012, the ‘black-geoisie’ has integrated all the white codes … but with a twist, bourgeois with an ethnic reference that recalls their roots,” she argued.

The US website Huffington Post slammed the piece last week, saying a clumsy attempt to praise black style had “unravelled into a string of controversial, stereotypical and insulting statements.”

“So, being chic and sophisticated beyond jeans and a T-shirt has only been an option for black people since 2008 when Michelle Obama became First Lady?” it asked.

French star journalist Audrey Pulvar, one of the rare black faces in France’s media landscape, also called the article “racist and imbecilic”.

In a statement issued on Wednesday night, the body representing journalists at the style weekly defended their title.

“No ‘Elle’ is not racist,” the Société Des Journalistes said in a statement, insisting the magazine had “never stopped campaigning for the dignity of all women for more than 60 years.”

Elle editor Valerie Toranian also published an online apology, saying the weekly was “deeply sorry” to have caused offence, and has invited an anti-racism body to take part in a debate about the article.

In a new post on Elle’s site, Dolivo also apologises for the article, saying it was an attempt to take a “positive” look at US society and style.

“It was about putting the spotlight on these new figures who are unsettling and fascinating the worlds of fashion and entertainment,” she wrote.

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COURT

French court orders Twitter to reveal anti-hate speech efforts

A French court has ordered Twitter to give activists full access to all its documents relating to efforts to combat racism, sexism and other forms of hate speech on the social network.

French court orders Twitter to reveal anti-hate speech efforts
Photo: Alastair Pike | AFP

Six anti-discrimination groups had taken Twitter to court in France last year, accusing the US social media giant of “long-term and persistent” failures in blocking hateful comments from the site.

The Paris court ordered Twitter to grant the campaign groups full access to all documents relating to the company’s efforts to combat hate speech since May 2020. The ruling applies to Twitter’s global operation, not just France.

Twitter must hand over “all administrative, contractual, technical or commercial documents” detailing the resources it has assigned to fighting homophobic, racist and sexist discourse on the site, as well as “condoning crimes against humanity”.

The San Francisco-based company was given two months to comply with the ruling, which also said it must reveal how many moderators it employs in France to examine posts flagged as hateful, and data on the posts they process.

The ruling was welcomed by the Union of French Jewish Students (UEJF), one of the groups that had taken the social media giant to court.

“Twitter will finally have to take responsibility, stop equivocating and put ethics before profit and international expansion,” the UEJF said in a statement on its website.

Twitter’s hateful conduct policy bans users from promoting violence, or threatening or attacking people based on their race, religion, gender identity or disability, among other forms of discrimination.

Like other social media businesses it allows users to report posts they believe are hateful, and employs moderators to vet the content.

But anti-discrimination groups have long complained that holes in the policy allow hateful comments to stay online in many cases.

French prosecutors on Tuesday said they have opened an investigation into a wave of racist comments posted on Twitter aimed at members of the country’s national football team.

The comments, notably targeting Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe, were posted after France was eliminated from the Euro 2020 tournament last week.

France has also been having a wider public debate over how to balance the right to free speech with preventing hate speech, in the wake of the controversial case of a teenager known as Mila.

The 18-year-old sparked a furore last year when her videos, criticising Islam in vulgar terms, went viral on social media.

Thirteen people are on trial accused of subjecting her to such vicious harassment that she was forced to leave school and was placed under police protection.

While President Emmanuel Macron is among those who have defended her right to blaspheme, left-wing critics say her original remarks amounted to hate speech against Muslims.

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