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back to article Twitter must unmask racist French twits or face $1,300-a-DAY fine

Twitter has been ordered by a tribunal in France to name the anonymous twits who tweeted anti-Semitic bile. The social network was sued by the Union of French Jewish Students to make it to reveal the identities of those behind the vile messages, which were pulled from the website in October. Twitter said it obeyed the laws of …

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Trollface

can they?

Can Twitter just pull themselves from France altogether? China blocks sites all the time.

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Meh

Privacy? Free speech? Opinion? Bloody mindedness?

Human Rights to be allowed freedom of expression?

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Re: can they?

If Twitter has no offices or servers in France, then yes it can ignore French courts. In the US, the Constitution guarantees the right to Free Speech. In the EU and most of the rest of the world, there is no right to Free Speech. The likelihood that a US Court would directly uphold th French Court's ruling is zero. On the other hand, the plaintiffs can try to sue in a US Court, which if they were really interested in anything other than publicity, they would have done rather than engage in that masterbatory suit in France.

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Meh

Imagine imagine if

Imagine if Twitter added a button to report offensive tweets?

Every Tom Dick and Harry will be complaining about anything that doesn't suit them.

It will mean that twitter will have to employ a million moderators to manage the swamp of inane crap that gets published.

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WTF?

@LarsG

Oh nonsense. Most sites with user post ability - including this comments thread - have a report as offensive button. The wheel does not require reinvention.

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Re: Imagine imagine if

I find your use of the word 'dick' to be offensive, and that blank vacant expression is disturbing. Reported.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: can they?

" In the US, the Constitution guarantees the right to Free Speech. In the EU and most of the rest of the world, there is no right to Free Speech"

Would that be the right to Free Speech as in, the right to Say Things We Approve Of? You're mistaken, we have that too.

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Re: Privacy? Free speech? Opinion? Bloody mindedness?

Not that I agree with most of this, but most countries have some kind of restrictions on any of those. In the UK you can not be a police officer and a fascist, if you want a visa to visit the US of A you must state you're not a communist, in France you can not say you hate Jews... What is considered private or allowed in the spirit free speech varies wildly depending on where you are. Opinions on such matters differ, like in so many other liberties (drinking age, voting age, consensual sex age, expressing one’s sexual orientation – when not conforming to the norm –, etc.).

It's the world we live in, deal with it! (i.e., try to change it if you don't agree with what's going on, but accept that others may think differently)

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Re: can they?

" In the US, the Constitution guarantees the right to Free Speech."

Like shouting 'FIRE"! (when there isn't one) in a crowded cinema?

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Meh

Re: masterbatory suit

I think some of the froth from your lips obscured your eyes temporarily, Mr Earth. Last time I checked (around 35 years ago when I was about 13) there was a U in that there word.

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Happy

Re: Privacy? Free speech? Opinion? Bloody mindedness?

Indeed - nanny knows best.

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The question is where the limit must be, and not if there must be a limit.

For instance, calling to hurt or to murder someone cannot be covered by free speech.

Any freedom has a limit defined by the law, because the Individual lives in a society and his/her freedom is

limited by the others' freedom. It is fair when the law is voted by the People or People's representative democratically elected.

Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, article 11. : The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man. Every citizen may, accordingly, speak, write, and print with freedom, but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law.

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So the French courts are ordering Twitter to write code now?!??!

"...or be fined $1,300 a day until it compiled."

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FAIL

Re: So the French courts are ordering Twitter to write code now?!??!

Ordering twitter to write code to prevent people criticising adherents to what is after all just an idea.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So the French courts are ordering Twitter to write code now?!??!

If it were muslims instead of jews, twitter would have killed the twit's feed and handed his information over toute de suite.

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FAIL

Re: So the French courts are ordering Twitter to write code now?!??!

Anti Semitic comments are technically not racist. Jews choose to be Jews, they are not "born" Jews. Jewishness is merely passed on through religious indoctrination from a very young age. For example I could be Jewish but I could also be English white man or an American black man. Jews are not a race. Just as Christians are not a race and neither are Muslims. They are just groups of people who follow a type of religion.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So the French courts are ordering Twitter to write code now?!??!

mrweekender, whilst what you say is correct about Judaism, the religion, there is also a Jewish ethnicity.

Of course, all such ethnic boundaries are arbitrary, it just depends where we draw the line. We could have 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 20, or 100 races.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So the French courts are ordering Twitter to write code now?!??!

Biblically speaking anti Semitic comments would be comments that are derogatory to the descendants of Shem (one of Noahs three sons). Amongst the Semites are the Jewish people, through the lineage back to Isaac and his father Abraham, as are the arabs through the Ishmael, Abraham's other son.

So, a comment directed at a Jewish person could really only be anti Semitic if that Jewish person could trace their line back successfully to show that they were actually Semitic.

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: So the French courts are ordering Twitter to write code now?!??!

Yes, gah. My fault. Compiled, complied. I had word blindess :(

C.

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Re: So the French courts are ordering Twitter to write code now?!??!

...or as a Jewish friend of mine used to say, "If someone's going to be an anti-Semite, I just wish that they would be anti-ALL-Semites, instead of just hating MY family!"

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So the French courts are ordering Twitter to write code now?!??!

"Biblically speaking anti Semitic comments would be comments that are derogatory to the descendants of Shem (one of Noahs three sons). Amongst the Semites are the Jewish people, through the lineage back to Isaac and his father Abraham, as are the arabs through the Ishmael, Abraham's other son. a comment directed at a Jewish person could really only be anti Semitic if that Jewish person could trace their line back successfully to show that they were actually Semitic."

The word is used to mean anyone who has any kind of enmity or antipathy towards Jews. What you or other poorly educated etymologists think the word "should" mean, is irrelevant. Words mean what they mean.

If you want denotations and etymologies to correspond, there will be many words in the language that will need new meanings, and many new words will be required for things which currently have words of "incorrect etymology".

Here's a new word for you: "semantics".

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So the French courts are ordering Twitter to write code now?!??!

Weekender, I think you might find that you've got it backwards. Being Jewish is being part of a nation as well as having certain beliefs. The latter you may choose not to follow, but the former is with you for life and not your decision.

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Re: So the French courts are ordering Twitter to write code now?!??!

"Weekender, I think you might find that you've got it backwards. Being Jewish is being part of a nation as well as having certain beliefs. The latter you may choose not to follow, but the former is with you for life and not your decision."

Indeed. I once dated an Israeli girl who was Jewish by race but not Jewish by religion. I know many Americans who also consider themselves Jewish by race but not religion

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So the French courts are ordering Twitter to write code now?!??!

"I once dated an Israeli girl who was Jewish by race but not Jewish by religion."

Yep. I consider myself Jewish, but am not religious - though I respect Judaism as part of my cultural history.

I also figure that if I'm Jewish enough to be cornered in school and threatened for 'killing Jesus', and if I'm Jewish enough to have a right to Israeli citizenship if I want, and if I'm Jewish enough that I would have been hauled off to the gas chambers, then I'm damn well Jewish enough, and anybody who tries to tell me otherwise can roll it up tight.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So the French courts are ordering Twitter to write code now?!??!

"then I'm damn well Jewish enough"

Hehe! Never thought of it that way. :)

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Pint

Re: Yes, gah.

Yeah, it was an obvious typo, but just too good to pass up in the comment section.

So have a beer on me.

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Anonymous Coward

Changing worrld

Another fine example of how the world has changed. We live in this huge global villages ( what a horrible phrase! ), where politcal boundaries mean less and less each day. We traverse more countires boundaries in a morning browsing session than our forebears would have in a lifetime.

We're already seeing the dismantling of such things as the Swiss finanical laws on privacy and anonymity, forced by the 24/7/365 connected, online world where you can't hide behind a country's laws because the world and their dog already know you're there.

The laws and legalities need ugrent update to allow us to quickly and efficiently stamp on the same old bugbears of old, such as hate crime in this case.

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Re: Changing worrld

"hate" is not a crime.

In some circumstances, what was said and shown could be considered satire - albeit many may find it distasteful.

"Jews talk about The Holocaust, which is wrong, they had A holocaust, admittedly it was the best one, but the native American Indians and the Australian Aboriginees may have a claim on holocaust as well."

Jim Jeffries

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Changing worrld

There is no such thing as "hate" crime. If I insult you, slander you, or kick your arse, those things are bad regardless of your ethnic background or mine.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Changing worrld

Ah but if you're white and they're not it's far far worse.

I mean when was the last time you heard a black guy get arrested for a hate crime? Or a muslim? Or erm.. a mexican?

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FAIL

Re: Fascism / Communism

Odd, where does it mention the Government ANYWHERE in this article?

You do know courts != government don't you? In fact they often keep government in check.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Fascism / Communism

"Anonymity is a human right."

So if I anonymously, in a public place, claim that you are a pedophile or racist etc., you would be quite happy about that ?

Anon, obviously :-)

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Re: Fascism / Communism

Actually, in French (and most european) law the court is part of the goverTment. You're presumably thinking in terms of adversarial separation of powers, a very anglo-saxon idea that just never caught on amongst the continentals.

This has odd results. English courts can set and overturn law by precedent because they function in opposition to the legislature and the executive, whilst Courts in France can't (having no ability to set precedent in the first place), because they acknowledge the supremacy of the legislative assembly and executive power. They function as an arm of government, implementing and enforcing the law. They can overturn law, but the law can simply be restated by the legislature, whereas an English court setting a precedent in an area of law can often force the legislature to abandon future attempts to craft law in that area as the courts would simply deny their legitimacy based on prior precedent.

Of course this all ignores the point the original poster was trying to make, and that he would have made much better if he had replaced "the government" with "the state". Courts form part of the apparatus of The State, along with the legislature, executive, armed forces, police and various other bits and bobs. The State, in this case represented by the Courts, is becoming more oppressive and thus more like the stasi. Though the better comparison would be the entire state apparatus of the GDR rather than just its internal security enforcement branch.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Fascism / Communism

Eadon, I thought it was just in the Linux articles that you embarrassed yourself and dragged the good(!?) name of this site through the mud.

I am sure you have the best of intentions but mate, just give it a rest, will you please.

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Meh

Re: Fascism / Communism

"[...a very anglo-saxon idea that just never caught on amongst the continentals."

Yes, that Montesquieu was such a fine British chap, pip pip, and all that.

Actually, you're conflating separation of powers with common law. The latter certainly isn't a prerequisite of the former, and the inability of the courts to set precedents does not make them "parts of the government" in the context of their independence, and it does not even necessarily mean that no judicial structure has an ability to shoot down a law that has been put forward by the legislative or executive branch.

Whether the courts are "part of the government" depends on what you understand as the "government". AFAIR, in British English that refers chiefly to the executive branch.

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WTF?

Mmmm

"Twitter said it obeyed the laws of the countries it operates in, but insisted that only a US judge could order it to squeal."

Ok, lets take this apart:

If a court of law in a country orders you to hand the information and you fail to do so (saying only US courts can), then you are in contempt of court, which is an offence, ergo, you are not "obeying the laws of the country".

So let me amend.

"Twitter said it obeyed the laws of the countries it operates in, except where it suits us for either financial or propaganda purposes.

Fixed.

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Re: Mmmm

But as you say the laws of the countries it operates in...Do they operate in France? Or are they accessible from France?

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Re: Mmmm

I operate several websites in the UK.

If a US court decides to instruct me to do something, because of something on those websites, I'll write back a nice letter pointing out that they do not have jurisdiction.

If, and when, an EU or UK court does the same, I will comply 100% fully with the law.

At no time is it illegal to not comply with a foreign court's ruling that lacks jurisdiction. Otherwise, quite literally, some court in the Middle East, say, could sentence a Brit for being gay even if they never stepped foot in the country that the court is in, and even if the offence is perfectly legal in Britain.

The question really is who has jurisdiction? And what portion of Twitter can be told what to do by a French court? Because even if they have "twitter.fr", for example, the chances are that the server and the data have never, ever been deployed in France and that not one Twitter employee has ever set foot in the country on business. In that case, about the worst they could do is threaten certain Twitter CEO's that they might be arrested on entry to France (which would result in a very interesting case should it ever come to court, but would likely be thrown out before it even started because of the laws on jurisdiction), and maybe confiscate the domain name.

Even if you HAVE jurisdiction over some entity - say, Twitter France Ltd or whatever - then that jurisdiction is only over them, not their US parent. You can fine them. You can sanction them. But what you can't do is make the US data holders do anything. Most probably they would get the US data holders to at least filter the material from France, but equally they could just dissolve the French company because it can't comply (and wouldn't want to annoy the French courts) and have done with it.

Jurisdiction in the modern era is really, really complicated in terms of knock-on effects, but also really, really simple in terms of the law. I'm not in France, so I can't commit a crime which comes under French jurisdiction. It's not quite so simple electronically, but you can't "fine" someone electronically either - you have to take it to a court.

The Supreme Court of Outer Mongolia can send me all the legal demands they like. Until they go to a British court and get the correct paperwork (e.g. extradition, etc.), they have no jurisdiction over me. The worst they can do is freeze my Monogolian assets (none), stop me entering the country or arrest me on entry, or apply to a British court. And the trial at the British court will almost certainly be more costly and difficult than whatever they are sending me letters for.

The British court is the only one with jurisdiction over me at the moment. However, if I was - say - committing fraud or hacking into the Whitehouse, I quite reasonably expect to see an application for extradition come through to a British court. With companies, who can't be "extradited", that's much harder. And with crimes that aren't crimes in other jurisdictions, that's even harder. And when there's no legal presence in a particular country at all, that's even harder.

The big question really is: What does the French court and the prosecutor expect to achieve, and would it harm Twitter's international image not to comply more than it would to comply?

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Re: Mmmm

A better approach is to just ignore the court order without any response. If you send a letter back (or any other communication) a lot of judges will assume that you are acknowledging the court order and then defying it. At that point they may decide to take offence and escalate the whole matter. Something similar to this happened to Spamhaus as I remember.

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Re: Mmmm

Link to Twitter France is https://twitter.com/twitter_fr - the server comes up with a US IP address. Guess the French court is in for a surprise.

Would also be interested in finding out how they intend to levy the find if Twitter ignore them; after all if Twitter have no assets in France then there is not much the court can do.

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Re: Mmmm

"Something similar to this happened to Spamhaus as I remember."

It did, but it initially moved to move the case to higher US courts, which was the mistake (i.e. recognising any sort of US jurisdiction by asking them to move it to a more appropriate US court). To quote Wikipedia:

"The court, presided over by Judge Charles Kocoras, proceeded with the case against Spamhaus without considering the international jurisdiction issue, prompting British MP Derek Wyatt to call for the judge to be suspended from office."

"Spamhaus subsequently announced that it would ignore the judgement because default judgements issued by U.S. courts without a trial "have no validity in the U.K. and cannot be enforced under the British legal system".

And though it went through several rounds, the damages supposedly awarded at each stage were never really collectable. In the end, the suit resulted in a $3 (yes, three dollar) judgement, with costs to be met by the other side.

But if you start from the very beginning saying "You have no jurisdiction", you are not recognising the court jurisdiction at all. As always, such things are best handled by a lawyer, anyway.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Mmmm

For info, the basis on which the French court asserts jurisdiction is because the alleged prosecutable activity occurred on French soil.

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Re: Mmmm

In the Spamhaus case, they replied to the state court saying it was a matter that should be considered by a Federal court. Then they ignored the Federal court summons.

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Mushroom

The Right to Free Speech

With RIGHTS comes RESPONSIBILITIES

Freedom of speech was introduced to prevent oppression - it is NOT a licence to say anything you want without consequence (despite what some people think).

Free speech allows you to defend your own position, it does not give you the right to attack and oppress others. There is a grey area between justifiable criticism and attack, which is why we have courts to weigh the arguments. A court in a respected country has issued a ruling that there is a case to answer - Twitter should release the requested details to the authorities so the alleged perpetrators can be given a fair trial.

If you believe in freedom of speech, then you should stand behind anything you say. If you need to hide, you probably shouldn't be saying it.

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Re: The Right to Free Speech

"If you need to hide, you probably shouldn't be saying it."

You can't be serious.

There are a number of legitimate reasons why a person might need to hide his identity while exercising free speech, speech that a government finds embarassing being just one of the more obvious ones.

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Re: The Right to Free Speech

I really can't understand the reason for someone downvoting your post. It is perfect common sense that although you do have the right to free speech it should be tempered with a social responsibility to not act like a twat and use your so called "free speech" to abuse people from behind a mask of an anonymous username.

Walk into town see someone that looks like they have eaten far too many pies, your "free speech" means you can go and tell them, however common sense and social responsibility tell you that you cannot do that, without some kind of reprisal.

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Re: The Right to Free Speech

How, exactly, do words oppress someone?

The right to free speech is precisely what it says: the right to speak. You may exercise responsibility along with that right if you wish, but the right itself is nothing more or less than what it is: we have vocal cords, we can use them. It has no moral or ethical dimension, it is simply an acknowledgement of the natural state of the world. Codified in law, it becomes a requirement that the state not interfere with that right.

Free speech is one of the natural rights (or god-given rights if you're so inclined), also known as negative rights. A negative right has no requirement that others give up their rights to support yours. I can speak freely all day without anyone having to give up anything in order to support that right. No sacrifice of another's rights must be made to grant me my freedom of speech.

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Re: The Right to Free Speech

I don't disagree with you entirely. The only bit I do disagree with is "You may exercise responsibility along with that right if you wish" as you can see from the excerpt below from Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. So in one sense you "May" exercise responsibility along with that right, but if you don't then you can't really expect to not get held accountable. Like you (seem to be using a proper name ;-) ) I use my actual name when posting here as I have no problems with what I say being attributed to me. Yet so many people post as AC (it seems imho) just to say whatever they want!

The right to freedom of expression is recognized as a human right under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and recognized in international human rights law in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 19 of the ICCPR states that "[e]veryone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference" and "everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice". Article 19 goes on to say that the exercise of these rights carries "special duties and responsibilities" and may "therefore be subject to certain restrictions" when necessary "[f]or respect of the rights or reputation of others" or "[f]or the protection of national security or of public order (order public), or of public health or morals".

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