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RACISM

VIDEO: France launches ‘shock’ anti-hate campaign

France has launched a shock video campaign based on real events in a bid to combat the country’s increasingly worrying number of hate crimes.

VIDEO: France launches 'shock' anti-hate campaign
Photo: Screengrab from one of the six videos

To mark the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the French government has launched a video campaign to underscore the dangers of prejudices and racism.

Gathered under the banner #TousUnisContreLaHaine (translating into Everyone United Against Hate) the government has released a total of six videos inspired by real hate crimes that have occurred in France.

Prior to watching the videos, people are warned that they may find the comments and images “shocking”.

In one video, viewers see how a horrified group of Muslims discover a pig’s head stuck on the gate to a mosque. In another, two young Jews are brutally beaten a group of hooded youths, and in a third a young couple is the target of an unprovoked attack in the street.

All videos have been shot in the same way; filmed with a smartphone and with several people heard commenting in a xenophobic manner in the background until one person finally speaks up and questions the ongoing dialogue: “Are you serious? Do you really believe what you are saying?”

The 30-second long sequences end with the text: “Racism, anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim acts – it begins with words, it ends with spitting, blows and blood”.

The campaign comes as France, recently hit by a number of deadly terrorist attacks, has seen a rising number of hate crimes, particularly aimed at Muslims and Jews.

Government figures released in January showed that the number of hate crimes in France jumped 22 percent in 2015, to 2,032 incidents.

Some members of France’s anti-immigrant National Front (FN) party weren’t too impressed by the campaign, however. While FN senator Stéphane Ravier tweeted that the “grotesque campaign is costing €3 million”, the party’s No. 2 Florian Philippot suggested Prime Minister Manuel Valls should make a clip himself. Philippot was referring to a 2009 incident when Valls, then mayor in the town of Evry, joked that “some whites” were needed to balance out participants at a local market.

In a stinging report released earlier this year, the Council of Europe’s Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) slapped France on the wrists for what it described as a worrying increase in hate speech and intolerance, including by the country’s politicians.

The council’s Secretary General, Thorbjorn Jagland, said that in France “hate speech has become commonplace in the public sphere” and “remains a matter of concern”.

“I call on political leaders in particular to refrain from making comments which stigmatise already vulnerable groups and fuel tensions in French society,” he urged.

The report particularly pointed the finger at French politicians whose political discourse has been used to target both Roma and Muslim communities.

In the report, even Valls was reprimanded for his comments made in March 2013 about Roma people having “no interest in integrating in France”.

French Mayor and MP Gilles Bourdouleix was also pulled up for his comments about Roma made in July 2013, when he was recorded as saying “Hitler didn't kill enough”.

National Front leader Marine Le Pen was singled out for picking on Muslims, particularly with her rants against the distribution of halal meat and comparing Muslims praying in the streets to the Nazi occupation.

And Nicolas Sarkozy’s Republicains party were chastised for hosting its “conference on Islam” last year, which was boycotted by many Muslim groups.

And there was the infamous recent case of MEP Nadine Morano repeatedly insisting “France was a country of white race.”

“ECRI is concerned about this situation, which is helping to trivialise the stigmatisation of these vulnerable groups,” the report read.

 

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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