Jean-Paul Guerlain will appear in a Paris courtroom on Thursday to answer for remarks he made in a television interview that provoked controversy in France and abroad.

"/> Jean-Paul Guerlain will appear in a Paris courtroom on Thursday to answer for remarks he made in a television interview that provoked controversy in France and abroad.

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RACISM

‘Negro’ remark lands parfumier in court

Jean-Paul Guerlain will appear in a Paris courtroom on Thursday to answer for remarks he made in a television interview that provoked controversy in France and abroad.

'Negro' remark lands parfumier in court
Screenshot France 2

Guerlain, a descendant of the founder of the company that bears his name, was answering questions on the lunchtime news programme of France 2 in October 2010 about a new perfume.

“For once, I starter working like a negro,” he said. “I don’t know if negroes have always worked like that, but anyway…”  

In French, “pour une fois, je me suis mis à travailler comme un nègre. Je ne sais pas si les nègres ont toujours tellement travaillé, enfin…”

The comments quickly led to a wave of protest around the world, with threats of boycotts of the company’s products.

Twitter users spoke of “colonial racism”, “Guerlain, the perfumer who stinks” and “the nauseating emanations of Monsieur Guerlain.”

Politicians from left and right were also quick to condemn the remarks.

Christine Lagarde, then finance minister of France, told French radio at the time that the comments were “pathetic.”

“I simply hope this is just senile and grotesque,” she said.

75-year-old Guerlain issued an apology for his choice of words, saying they “do not reflect in any way my profound thoughts but are due to an out of place misspeaking which I regret.”

Guerlain will be present at the hearing on Thursday, according to his lawyer. The maximum sentence for a public insult of a racist nature is six months in prison and a fine of €22,500 ($30,000).

The interview is here and the remarks are made about 1 minute in:

Dérapage malencontreux de Jean-Paul Guerlain sur… par Seven70

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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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