Memorial damage at Strasbourg’s Old Synagogue an ‘accident’

Damage to a memorial marking the site of Strasbourg's Old Synagogue, destroyed by the Nazis during World War II, was caused accidentally by a motorist and was not an act of anti-Semitism, a French police source has said.

Memorial damage at Strasbourg's Old Synagogue an 'accident'
Photo: AFP
The incident last weekend sparked outrage, with Strasbourg deputy mayor Alain Fontanel describing it as an “act of vandalism” and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemning “another shocking anti-Semitic incident”.
A police probe using surveillance cameras revealed that a 31-year-old man reversed into the memorial after leaving a nearby nightclub with friends, the source told AFP on Thursday.
“At this stage, no anti-Semitic nature has been detected,” the source said, adding the driver has been summoned to court in June over hit and run charges. 
The synagogue was built in the eastern city in 1898 and was the Strasbourg Jewish community's main place of worship, but it was ransacked and burnt to the ground by Hitler Youth in September, 1940.
Photo: AFP
The large black marble slab that stands in its place was knocked off its plinth in the early hours of Saturday morning. 
Thierry Roos, spokesman for the Israelite Consistory of the Bas-Rhin  region, told AFP at the time that the religious council was “distressed by the damage to this stone… whether it was intentional or not”.
The region has witnessed a rise in anti-Semitic acts, the latest on February 19 when 96 graves were daubed with swastikas at a Jewish cemetery in Quatzenheim, northwest of Strasbourg.
On December 11, the day of a deadly jihadist attack on Strasbourg's Christmas market, 37 Jewish graves and a monument were desecrated in Herrlisheim, northeast of the city.
In February 2015, around 300 graves were vandalised in a Jewish cemetery in nearby Sarre-Union, an act for which five adolescents were given suspended 
prison terms of eight to 18 months in 2017.

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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.