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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      1. Velv Silver badge

        Re: The Right to Free Speech

        "How, exactly, do words oppress someone?"

        Kids have committed suicide following cyber bullying. I'm fairly sure that's words causing oppression.

    1. tom dial Silver badge

      Re: The Right to Free Speech

      Downvoted primarily for the third paragraph and the notion that speech, however nasty or objectionable, constitutes either attack or oppression. I assume the several others did so for similar reasons.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The Right to Free Speech

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

      I find it quite literally chilling that there are people who both believe as you do and claim to respect freedom of thought and speech while simultaneously issuing caveats that gut the meaning of the words beyond recognition.

      Freedom of speech exists not in spite of the fact that people say things other people find offensive - it exists because people say things that other people find offensive.

      The people in this thread ranting about 'freedom coming with responsibility' are doing so without considering the ramifications of someone else's idea of responsibility being applied to their ideas of freedom.

      The Chinese government, for example, considers its policy precisely the same way: In China, you have complete freedom of speech as long as you don't abuse it and hurt social harmony by attacking the Communist Party. And of course you need to attach your name to your speech on the internet - if you need to hide, you probably shouldn't be saying it. Right?


      1. Jay Holmes

        Re: The Right to Free Speech

        If you would like to consider my "ranting" with regards to "freedom coming with responsibility" then have the decency to consider it in context.

        Nowhere do I mention the draconian laws the Chinese are held to!

        Since this case happened in Europe, I quoted European law so yes they do have a responsibility and be accountable for their actions. The fact is if people dont have the courage to stand up and be counted then nothing will get changed. Making anonymous comments or acting anonymously doesnt get anybody anywhere.

        Tell me one thing that has changed (for the better) since the London Riots, where lots of people covered up their identities in an effort to make a stand. What that stand was nobody really knows, but there were a lot of cheap tellys going round the area afterwards!

        What exactly has Anonymous achieved in real terms!!

        Julian Assange tried quoting freedom of speech when he released confidential diplomatic cables, they are confidential for a reason. Everybody held him up to be some kind of hero, your medical records are confidential would you be happy if he spread those around for everyone to see. The fact that by leaking those files led to real people getting killed, but "hey fuck it!" they were soldiers it was their job.

        Although everybody has the right to say or do whatever they want there are laws their for a reason, to stop lines from being crossed. You have the freedom to walk into a Porsche garrage and take any car that is just sat there. Unfortunately there is a law to stop you from doing that.

        You can call someone a faggot, nigger, fat twat. Believe it or not there are laws that stop you doing this as well. Its not simply a case of supressing your freedom of speech. Its supressing your freedom to be a twat!! Some people have thicker skin than others, someone comes up to me and calls me a nasty name I will probably ignore it the person next to me may take exception to being called the same thing. Thats when it becomes offensive.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The Right to Free Speech

          "Making anonymous comments or acting anonymously doesnt get anybody anywhere."

          This is demonstrably untrue. You've never heard of 'subversive' literature published under pseudonyms? Of people communicating in code to avoid detection by an occupying force? Seriously?!

          "Tell me one thing that has changed (for the better) since the London Riots, where lots of people covered up their identities in an effort to make a stand."

          You take one example of a big-ass riot where people wanted to be anonymous - which is kind of going to be by definition for any situation where you're doing something illegal and don't want to go to jail - and assert that the lack of positive results from that single event means that anonymous speech is useless?

          I'm really not sure how to respond to that. Riots are by definition people acting out of control and breaking the law - of freaking course they wanted to be anonymous! So what? Mobsters prefer to be anonymous also; that doesn't mean anonymity itself is bad - that reasoning would suggest that since not having your position tracked by the government aids in your committing crimes, that there's no reason not to have your location tracked.

          As for your examples - well, the first one involves people who were rioting; that, by definition, is not speech. They wanted to remain anonymous about their rioting, not about their opinions. The example carries no weight.

          The second example involves Wikileaks - but Julian Assange wasn't anonymous! The guy who leaked the information tried to be, but he got caught in spite of being anonymous.

          Additionally - and I hate to trot this one out, but it seems apt in this case - straaaaaw man! You say you dislike anonymous speech, but the examples you give refer in one case not to speech and in the other case not to anonymity; in both cases you suggest that rioting, theft, and the deaths of soldiers are apparently what one is choosing when one supports anonymous speech. Sorry, but it's just not so; not only is your man straw, but it's the wrong man - you're beating up the wrong opponent.

          If you'd like, you can peruse this document - from the Yale Law School, which may or may not carry more weight with you than, say, Wikipedia:

          Part II begins:

          Speech is, and has long been, intricately tied to the popular sovereignty underpinnings of our constitutional government.

          The United States has a rich and complex history of both anonymous speech and compelled disclosure.

          These historic practices have often coexisted in ways that suggest that they need not be in tension.

          These people don't sound like Blackberry-brandishing chav rioters or ill-studied, starry-eyed idealists to me.

          You stated: "Making anonymous comments or acting anonymously doesnt get anybody anywhere."

          The Yale Law School disagrees:

          Anonymous publications have profoundly shaped American history going back to the colonial era.

          A series of essays about free speech and liberty known pseudonymously as “Cato’s Letters” appeared in 1720.

          Other colonialera examples include a series of pamphlets criticizing Tory-minded English ministers that were published in the London Political Advertiser and reprinted in colonial newspapers under the pseudonym “Junius.”

          The famous pamphlet Common Sense, widely recognized for its impact on the nascent independence movement, was originally published under the simple pseudonym “An Englishman.”

          Is that a good enough example? If not, there's more. Dozens of pages of it.

          And while the previous bit does quite well enough in making my point, I have to say that I'd prefer not to live in a country where I can be fined and/or jailed for saying someone is a fat twat. Perhaps there are countries in which that is the case - but as far as I'm concerned, they don't deserve to call themselves free nations. Believe it or not, you do indeed - at least in the United States, and should have elsewhere (forgive my ethnocentrism) - have the freedom to be a twat. Hell, you're being a bit of a twat for implying that I somehow particularly advocate the speech of twats. Are you guilty? Who knows. Who decides? Are you comfortable with those people deciding? Is 'fat twat' enough? What about just 'fat'? What about 'pleasantly plump'? What if you say 'skinny awesome dude' but say it sarcastically?

          When does the government intervene?

          And how, pray tell, is what I'm about to say the equivalent of stealing a Porsche, you fat twat?

          Oh, I'm a criminal... but hang on - I insulted you as part of a political discussion. So how should the government approach that? You were genuinely insulted, perhaps, and that's what the law affects. But does that mean that it's legal to call a thick-skinned person a fat twat but not a sensitive type? Suppose someone frustrates you and you say, "Oh, for Christ's sake!" - and they happen to be extremely sensitive to that kind of thing? Is it a crime, then? Who judges precisely how offended the 'victim' is? What gives them that right? Should the serially-offended leave a trail of jailed passers-by?

          Or do you just assume that the law would naturally base itself on what you happen to find offensive in particular, and not consider that your political speech may be someone else's blasphemy?

          I wonder.

          1. Jay Holmes

            Re: The Right to Free Speech

            OK point taken, Subversive Literature probably does have its place as a catalyst to wake real people up who take a stand publicly. Subversive Literature by itself does nothing. People talking in code to avoid detection, agreed when this is used to good effect it works.

            I asked about the London Riots, that were borne out of a so called peaceful protest. Most people decided to protest anonymously, masked up just like the student (University Tuition) protests.

            My second point asked what Anonymous had done, havent really found out yet other than annoy people they havent really changed anything have they?

            Correct Assange wasnt being annonymous the person supplying him the information was trying (doing a bad job of it too!) to be anonymous, but do you think if he had just been saying nasty things about the government they would of even bothered with him. Or do you think he got caught because he was doing something illegal??

            You quote "American" law at me then, something which has no relevance to either my comments or the article in question.

            Granted the Junius pamphlets did a hell of a lot for reforming the way most of Europe deal with things politically and democratically and they were written anonymously. But they didnt abuse people on the basis of their religion did they?

            Since you just jumped to conclusions regarding what I had typed and obviously didn't read it, heres a quick summary

            Freedom = Do what you want!

            Law = Stop the bits of freedom that may hurt people!

            Hopefully that was nice and simple for you, you dumb fuck!! (< see now Im insulting you as part of a political discussion, doesnt make it any less insulting though does it??)

            "Or do you just assume that the law would naturally base itself on what you happen to find offensive in particular, and not consider that your political speech may be someone else's blasphemy?"

            Nope I dont assume this at all, since I can find it written down in law I have no need to assume this>> See below stunningly relevant (unlike your law quotes) to this article law (that I have previously quoted and has obviously been ignored)

            "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".

            Its that last line that gives me (and coincidentally all the right to find offense in what people say "[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 and morals"

            Does the following mean (in your own words) they don't deserve to call themselves free nations?

            Here is the corresponding American Law (take note of Para 2 parts a and b, look familiar?)

            Article 13. Freedom of Thought and Expression

            1. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought and expression. This right includes freedom to seek, receive,

            and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing, in print, in the

            form of art, or through any other medium of one's choice.

            2. The exercise of the right provided for in the foregoing paragraph shall not be subject to prior censorship but

            shall be subject to subsequent imposition of liability, which shall be expressly established by law to the extent

            necessary to ensure:

            a. respect for the rights or reputations of others; or

            b. the protection of national security, public order, or public health or morals.

            3. The right of expression may not be restricted by indirect methods or means, such as the abuse of

            government or private controls over newsprint, radio broadcasting frequencies, or equipment used in the

            dissemination of information, or by any other means tending to impede the communication and circulation of

            ideas and opinions.

            4. Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph 2 above, public entertainments may be subject by law to prior

            censorship for the sole purpose of regulating access to them for the moral protection of childhood and


            5. Any propaganda for war and any advocacy of national, racial, or religious hatred that constitute incitements

            to lawless violence or to any other similar action against any person or group of persons on any grounds

        2. Steen Hive

          Re: The Right to Free Speech

          "The fact that by leaking those files led to real people getting killed, but "hey fuck it!" they were soldiers it was their job."

          You are either dissembling, or you have a cognitive disorder. Leaking those files showed REAL people being murdered - by a helicopter gunship acting more-or-less on your behalf.

          1. Jay Holmes

            Re: The Right to Free Speech

            No what those videos showed was the over zealous nature of my American colleagues in prosecuting genuine targets in a war zone!

            I assume that is what you are on about?

            Since those were not the only files that were released please feel free (as is your right) to ignore everything else and focus on that.

    3. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      Re: The Right to Free Speech @ Velv

      There is a long and noble tradition of anonymous pamphleteering in most European countries going back to just about the invention of the printing press. For more recent examples, look up "Samizdat" sometime - something you might well decide is acceptable use of anonymous use of the written word.

      The danger with saying "This speech is acceptable and this isn't" is that minority views cannot get air, and therefore cannot be dealt with by discussion. I can understand the pov of the Jews - discussion of their minority views has never really got them anywhere (there have been too many pogroms for them not to have learned that), but I still don't agree with banning free speech about any group.

      1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
        Thumb Down

        Re: Intractable Potsherd Re: The Right to Free Speech @ Velv

        ".....but I still don't agree with banning free speech about any group." Whilst against banning, I would still expect that statements should be challengeable in a court of law, and where proven to be factually inaccurate should be legally forced to be removed and publicly apologised for. If a sinister motive rather than ignorance is found in court to be the root of the issue - a so-called "hate-crime" - then there should be an associated punishment for the perpetrator, including full publication of their names and identities. Giving people the ability to hide behind anonymity should be chalengeable in court, though if the perp.'s statements turn to to be correct and factual then I support the idea of their owner's identity being protected.

        For example, saying you disagree with the aims of Zionism is an opinion, but saying all Jews are descended from pigs and apes is racism and should not be protected either by "free speech" or claims of historical religion

  1. localzuk


    Just like the German injunctions that were faxed to me for hosting animal lab videos a decade ago, this judgement has no grounding as it lacks jurisdiction.

    They can if they wish, just ignore it, but the French seem to be a persistent bunch so no doubt they'd bring in a law to censor the site instead - like they're trying to bring one in to tax big websites individually.

    Me? I'd say ignore it, like I did with my injunctions.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh dear

    Will they have to set up a committee to decide what is an anti-Semitic bile. What about the Scots, French, American rednecks, kings and Queens ... If I consider Nethanyahu a prick am I then anti-Semitic.

    And what is the Union of French Jewish Students going to do with all that data they ask for. Send letterbombs or something.

    I am against racist behaviour and speech but I cannot see how this could help change the world for the better for anyone. Why not try to grow a slightly thicker skin instead, French Jewish Students.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "set up an easy system for people to report offensive tweets."

    Really, thats very subjective. All tweets are offensive to me! Your don't hear me crying like a little girl.

    Honestly, I'd sue right back.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They could do as the USA

    The next time a twitter exec changes planes in France, arrest him.

    1. Richard Taylor 2 Silver badge

      Re: They could do as the USA

      Surely a European Arrest Warrant for a select number of EU/US Twitter execs will make life very interesting.

  5. billse10
    Megaphone vs Twitter Inc

    An IP geo-lookup on the first IP address i got for shows it being located in San Francisco. The one in the US, not the one in France. If there is one in France. It looks a little like we have a French court ordering a US company to make changes to a US-hosted website, because of something that is not an offence under US law, and fining it if it does not obey. Let's hope Twitter management have a sense of humour, and removes all physical assets from France, and publishes it's T&Cs from California. with English as the only authoritative version, embedding something unpleasant like the right to send unlimited advertising to users as a way to recover the costs this court is trying to impose.

    This is almost as ridiculous as Russian / Ukrainian / etc oligarchs being able to sue each other in UK courts for things that didnt happen in UK.

    1. Duncan Macdonald Silver badge

      Re: vs Twitter Inc

      What the french courts could do is sieze the domain name (this IS in french jurisdiction) and possibly force French ISPs to redirect twitter.anything to a null placeholder.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. billse10

        Re: vs Twitter Inc

        they could - and they'd look incredibly petty for doing so (if they've been following UK courts when it comes to Internet stuff, they can learn how to do that really quickly). Alternatively they should prove they have jurisdiction over content published in other countries - or, more logically, they should simply claim jurisdiction over the person responsible for "importing" the content to France. That opens a new can of worms, of course. Or rather, cans of worms.

        Still doesn't sort an issue raised by the second area i mentioned - people from outside the UK suing each other in UK courts because a website, merely accessible from UK but not hosted, edited or controlled from here, is visible from here. Only an idiot judge would claim such a website is published here wouldn't they -but some have?

        Where is a website published? Take a site hosted by Amazon EC2 multiple locations in the US, having a Swedish domain name, but edited by someone in UK today but Ireland tomorrow, accessed via a TOR connection that could go pretty much anywhere, with content cached left right and centre? Where is that content published? A book isn't published in the UK simply because I can flick through it on the bookshelves of Foyles on Charing Cross Road.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Unmask the froggy racists? too easy.

    I've visited France, and think it would be harder to unmask the non-racists.

    1. Steen Hive

      Re: Unmask the froggy racists? too easy.

      Child's play to unmask mere xenophobes, though.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Unmask the froggy racists? too easy.

        as an islander it comes as second nature - now were is my fish, dammit!

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How long before Twitter is shut down?

    Barely a day goes by without some incident related to Twitter. I'm afraid the concept of being able to shout your every thought to the entire internet, unmonitored is flawed from the start and theres little that'll change that. Get rid, it serves no purpose whatsoever.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How long before Twitter is shut down?

      I don't know, come the day of the revolution it will provide a handy list of those to be sent to the salt mines...

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Re: How long before Twitter is shut down?

      "the concept of being able to shout your every thought... is flawed from the start... Get rid, it serves no purpose whatsoever."

      You first.

  8. mark l 2 Silver badge

    How dare France try to impose its law on a US company, Don't France realise that its the US law that can be implemented world wide?

    1. Lars Silver badge

      It is about a Jewish group of students in France who, through some hard to understand methods, have accomplished this. I suppose the atmosphere against multinationals making business in Europe while avoiding taxes could have something to do with it. I am still very curious about how this is possible at all.

      Joke alert, although your joke was much better.

      1. Roger Mew

        french heresy

        Mmm just a thought, 1/ many French jews were given to the nasties in the second world war, 2/ today many gestapo laws still stand, We are still not in Brittany, but in Pays de loire. 3/ What language was spoken in Morroco, oh yes frog, and they HATE the Yids.

        Late breaking News, France declares war on all countries not liking Israel and speaking French or having French speakers!

        Der! sounds like a load of rubbish, come on French gov stick to nicking motorists for not breathing correctly!

        J'habite en France et je connait plus bien le situation en France.

  9. The Grump

    Can't Twitter simply purchase an island outside national borders, and transmit from there ? Call it "Internet Island". Then tell these judges (and Imams) to open a nice frosty can of Shut the F*** Up when they get all arrogant and full of themselves. Please note that the French Judge is unnamed - an anonymous coward.

    I'd buy an island like that if I could afford it. Booze, drugs, sex, gambling, nude beaches, cricket, you name it, I would have it. It would make Vegas look like a catholic church.

    [Threw cricket in there to see if you were paying attention] :)

    1. Chad H.

      The pirate bay solution?

      Basically, someone would eventually send in the troops, or go after the Internet provider.

  10. Roger Mew

    Stupid rhetoric (possibly posted anon also!

    Thing is IF the people had used a VPN then the French government could piss up the wall, further, its not just France that speaks French, nor is it the only language spoken in France. Frankly, like everything else the French government do they have no idea how the internet works, nor most things like that they infact are still under the impression that nothing else exists outside or other than France.

    If I were the bosses of twitter then I would give the French government some addresses in say Vietnam, or Africa French speaking, or even some parts of South America.

    Do remember that parts of the world still are against the yids.

    Just suppose that the perpetrators "habite en faite en Iran". What are the French govt going to do then... Bomb Iran!

    Stupid unenforceable rhetoric. Oh guess where I live, yep, France, do I speak French nah! why do I live here? Because its akin to the UK 50 years ago except for speed cameras. However we do not pay road tax!!

  11. Matt Bryant Silver badge


    "......The social network was sued .... to reveal the identities of those behind the vile messages....." I didn't know Lib Dem MP David Ward had a Twitter account.

  12. MrZoolook

    If the 'culprit' is French...

    ... will the authorities then try and tax Twitter for the use of a French citizen (or their work/identity/personal details etc), as they seem keen on doing now it seems?


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