CNN reveals: Anti-Semitic French websites hosted by US company

Anti-Semitic attacks in France are believed to be incited by French language websites hosted by an American company.

Sara Rubenstein ,

Jewish cemetery vandalized with swastikas in Quatzenheim, in east France
Jewish cemetery vandalized with swastikas in Quatzenheim, in east France
Reuters

Earlier this month, 107 graves in a Jewish cemetery in the village of Westhoffen near Strasbourg, France were defaced with Nazi swastikas and anti-Semitic graffiti. In February, 96 graves at a Jewish cemetery in the French village of Quatzenheim were also defaced.

Both cemeteries are located in the Alsace region of France which has had an alarmingly increasing amount of anti-Semitic attacks over the past 18 months - 42 to be precise, according to CNN. And although French authorities have opened an investigation and are dedicating much time and resources to it, the culprits have not been caught.

CNN decided to conduct it own global investigation based on information they received from a source close to the local French investigation - who believes that the local culprits have been influenced to commit the anti-Semitic attacks by global websites - and found a trail that led them "from Alsace, through the Bahamas and Panama, and on to the United States."

CNN found two anti-Semitic French-language websites with photographs of the anti-Semitic vandalism in Alsace and articles praising the attacks. The sites were hosted in the Bahamas and Panama, unfettered by France's anti-hate speech laws.

Both sites use the US-based internet infrastructure company Cloudflare. According to CNN, Cloudfare discontinued its service to 8chan in the summer following the discovery that a user thought to be the shooter in the El Paso mass shooting posted a rant on it. Cloudflare also said that following the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017, it discontinued its service to the US neo-Nazi blog Daily Stormer.

CNN asked Cloudfare why it was not removing the French websites with similar hate speech, albeit in French, but did not receive a reply.

The investigation also found that Facebook posts from the French sites were not taken down immediately, although according to Facebook, Daily Stormer posts are blocked from being shared at all. CNN said that when they inquired about Facebook's policy, the company began blocking the French posts as well.

CNN also reached out to Twitter which currently allows posts from both Daily Stormer and the French sites to be shared. Twitter responded that it will start blocking certain content in the future.

As part of the investigation, CNN interviewed France's Interior Minister, Christophe Castaner, asking him if the US is doing enough to prevent hate speech.

"No. And my answer is clear," said Castaner, "because there is a clear difference of culture."

"It is not about opposing French or European culture to American culture, but clearly on these subjects there is a belief in the freedom to say anything and everything. I believe that there is no freedom when it is us and our fundamental values that are being attacked."

After the latest incident in the Jewish cemetery in Westhoffen, Castaner announced that a national task force was being formed to fight and investigate crimes.

It is sorely needed. The number of anti-Semitic attacks in France, which hosts Europe's largest Jewish community of 550,000 members, rose by 75% in 2018.




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