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French minister ‘shocked’ at Polanski’s César jury role

France's minister for women's rights said on Friday that she found it "surprising and shocking" that controversial Franco-Polish filmmaker Roman Polanski was chosen to preside over France's equivalent of the Oscars.

French minister 'shocked' at Polanski's César jury role
Roman Polanski at a press conference after a court in Krakow decided not to extradite him to the US. Photo: Janek Skarzynski/AFP
The award-winning director of “Chinatown” and “Rosemary's Baby” has been wanted in the US for almost four decades for the rape of a 13-year-old girl in Los Angeles.
   
The decision to honour him at France's annual Césars ceremony has infuriated women's groups, with many taking to social media to call for a boycott of the televised show.
   
Minister Laurence Rossignol told France Culture radio she found it “surprising and shocking that a rape case counts for little in the life of a man”.
   
The choice of 83-year-old Polanski to head the Césars jury showed “an indifference with regard to the acts of which he is accused” and “a sort of banalisation of rape,” she said.
   
A petition calling for him to be removed as president of the 42nd Césars, to take place in Paris on February 24, had garnered over 42,000 signatures by Friday.
   
The French Academy of Cinema Arts and Techniques however praised the director as an “insatiable aesthete”.
   
Polanski was accused of drugging Samantha Gailey before raping her at a friend's house in Los Angeles in 1977. He pleaded guilty to having unlawful sex with a minor, or statutory rape, as part of a plea bargain, but later fled to France.
   
Polanski said he was convinced that US authorities would scrap the plea deal and hand him a hefty prison sentence.
   
He was arrested in Switzerland in 2009 on a US extradition request and spent 10 months under house arrest before Bern rejected the US order.
 
The US then asked Poland to extradite him in January 2015, but a Krakow court rejected the demand in October, with the country's supreme court backing the decision two months later.

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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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