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French court tosses Twitter appeal, orders it identify anti-Semites

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PARIS (JTA) — A French appeals court has upheld a lower court’s ruling which ordered Twitter to divulge details of users who posted anti-Semitic content.

In a decision handed down Wednesday, the Paris Court of Appeals upheld a January 24 ruling that said Twitter must provide data on some users to France’s Union of Jewish students and four other human rights organizations that filed a complaint against the company in November 2012 for allowing anti-Semitic content.

The lower court’s ruling in January gave Twitter 15 days to comply and imposed a daily penalty of $1,300 for every day beyond that period that Twitter failed to comply. The online magazine PC Inpact, which on Thursday published the latest ruling in its entirety, calculated the judge’s decision could cost Twitter some $200,000 in penalties.

“This ruling is another step toward making Twitter answerable for its ongoing refusal to comply with France’s laws on hate speech,” Jonathan Hayoun, the president of the Union of Jewish Students in France, or UEJF, told JTA. “Unfortunately, there has been no progress or cooperation by Twitter so far.”

The UEJF first took action against Twitter last year after the hashtags #unbonjuif (“a good Jew”) and #unjuifmort (“a dead Jew”) became hugely popular because they were used in what Le Monde termed “a competition of anti-Semitic jokes.” Hashtags are labels used to index tweets on a particular topic.

Twitter has appealed the January ruling, prompting UEJF to open in March a separate procedure against Twitter at Paris correctional tribunal for violating hate speech restrictions. UEJF requested the court force Twitter to pay $50 million as compensation to organizations fighting racism in France.

Twitter argued in court that since it is an American company it adheres to U.S. laws and is protected by the First Amendment and its broad free speech liberties. But the French judge in January said that comments by Internet users in France are subject to France’s stricter legislation against racist and hateful expression.

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