Twitter ‘On Better Path’ in Tackling Hate

“It may have taken a lawsuit, a court order, and pressure from French law enforcement", but decision welcomed by anti-hate campaigners

Rina Tzvi ,

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AFP file

Twitter’s decision to reveal the identities of the authors of a series of racist and anti-Semitic tweets in France in response to a request from law enforcement and a Jewish student group, puts the company "on a better path” towards recognizing the need to deal with issues of hate speech, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) said Monday.

“It may have taken a lawsuit, a court order, and pressure from French law enforcement to help Twitter finally recognize that it needed to comply with French laws defining what is and is not acceptable speech in France,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director and co-author of the recently published book, Viral Hate: Containing Its Spread on the Internet. “But their decision to finally comply with the request of French authorities to reveal the names of those who spread anti-Semitism on their service puts Twitter on a better path toward recognizing the need to deal more proactively and directly with issues of hate speech and adherence to local laws.”

In January, a court in Paris ordered Twitter to turn over data that could help identify account holders who last fall posted offensive tweets, including anti-Jewish slurs and hashtags such as “a good Jew” and “a dead Jew” as part of a lawsuit filed by the Union of Jewish Students of France. French law forbids incitement to discrimination or hatred based on ethnicity, nationality, race or religion.

While the ADL ardently supports the right to free speech, it believes that social media and other Internet sites also have an obligation to regulate their communities and confront those who promote anti-Semitism, racism and other forms of hate speech.

“In America in the 1950s we fought for laws that unmasked the Ku Klux Klan,” said Foxman.  “Haters and bigots have a right to free speech, but they should be prepared to take responsibility for their comments rather than hiding behind a mask of anonymity.”