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ANTI-SEMITISM

Anti-Semitism: Macron vows to tackle the ‘shame of France’

French President Emmanuel Macron has spoken out against the "scourge" of anti-Semitism, calling it the "shame" of France and vowing to fight against it wherever surfaces, including online.

Anti-Semitism: Macron vows to tackle the 'shame of France'
Photo: AFP
On Wednesday Macron addressed the country's most leading Jewish group CRIF (Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions). 
 
During the speech, the president denounced anti-Semitism in France, which is home to the world's largest Jewish population after Israel and the US. 
 
“We collectively and wrongly believed that anti-Semitism had definitely gone away in our country,” he said, adding, “We must never falter, we will never falter in denouncing anti-Semitism and fighting against this scourge.” 
 
“Anti-Semitism is the opposite of the Republic, it is the shame of France, and we fight every day for a Republic of honor and fraternity.”
 
He went on to say that the government would continue to fight the problem in schools, at synagogues and elsewhere, and online, vowing a crackdown on anti-Semitic and racist cyber hate.
 
“We need to go further,” the French leader told delegates of CRIF.
 
French boy, aged 8, beaten up for wearing kippa in anti-Semitic attack
Photo: AFP
 
“We have understood, with horror, that anti-Semitism is still alive. And on this issue our response must be unforgiving. France would not be itself if Jewish citizens had to leave because they were afraid,” he said.   
 
France, he said, will lead moves this year at a European level in “a fight to legislate to compel (web) operators to withdraw as soon as possible” content that is hateful.
   
“No course will be ruled out, including the possibility of legislating in this area,” he said.
   
A new hate speech law in Germany, he added, was “an inspiring example”.
 
Anti-Semitic violence
 
The most recent figures available show that anti-Semitic violence increased by 26 percent last year in France and that criminal damage to Jewish places of worship and burials increased by 22 percent.
 
 
And in January an eight-year-old boy wearing the Jewish skullcap was beaten up by two teenagers in the northern Paris suburb of Sarcelles in what prosecutors said appeared to be attack motivated by the child's religion.   
 
A record 7,900 French Jews emigrated to Israel in 2015 following the deadly jihadist shooting at a Parisian kosher supermarket two days after the attack on satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
 
That exodus has since slowed, but a spate of anti-Semitic attacks since have continued to frighten one of Europe's biggest Jewish communities, numbering an estimated half a million.
 
A global study in 2014 found that one in three French people held anti-Semitic views, although experts suggested the figure exaggerated the problem of anti-Semitism in France. 
 
“Stating 18 million French people show signs of anti-Semitic attitudes seems excessive to me,” Marc Knobel, head of studies at CRIF told The Local at the time. “I have never seen a figure like that before.”
 
“I don't doubt that anti-Semitism exists in certain categories of the French population, and there is anti-Semitic violence in France, but France is not an anti-Semitic country,” he said.

 

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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