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ANTI-SEMITISM

‘Relentless’: Anti-Semitic acts rise by 69 percent in France in 2018

Anti-Semitic acts in France rose by 69 percent in the first nine months of 2018, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on Friday, the 80th anniversary of the infamous "Kristallnacht" of Nazi attacks against Jews.

'Relentless': Anti-Semitic acts rise by 69 percent in France in 2018
French Israelis attend a gathering in memory of Mireille Knoll, an 85-year-old Jewish woman murdered in her home in France. Photo: AFP
“Every aggression perpetrated against one of our citizens because they are Jewish echoes like the breaking of new crystal,” Philippe wrote on Facebook, referring to the start of the Nazi drive to wipe out Jews on November 9, 1938, also known as the Night of Broken Glass.
   
“Why recall, in 2018, such a painful memory? Because we are very far from being finished with anti-Semitism,” he said, calling the number of acts “relentless”.
   
After a record year in 2015, anti-Semitic acts fell by 58 percent in 2016 and went down a further seven percent last year, however there was an increase in violent acts targeting Jews.
   
In his Facebook post, Philippe quoted Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel as saying that “the real danger, my son, is indifference”, pledging that the French government would not be indifferent. 
 
It is not clear where the figures quoted by Philippe come from. 
   
The government plans to toughen rules on hate speech online next year, pressuring social media giants to do more to remove racist and anti-Semitic content. 
   
Philippe said it would also “experiment with a network of investigators and magistrates specially trained in the fight against acts of hate”, which could be extended nation-wide. 
 
He added that from mid-November a national team would be mobilised to intervene in schools to support teachers facing anti-Semitism.
 
Of the anti-Semitic acts perpetrated during the first nine months of 2018 one took place in the 18th arrondissement of Paris where graffiti reading “Jewish scum live here” was scrawled on the door of an apartment building.
 
A photo of the graffiti was circulating on Twitter and a woman living in the building filed a formal complaint with the police.
 
In March, several thousand people took part in a silent march in Paris in memory of an 85-year-old Jewish woman, killed in a grisly anti-Semitic attack.
 
READ ALSO:
Anti-Semitism: Macron vows to tackle the 'shame of France'
Photo: AFP
 

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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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