(JTA) — Twitter must divulge details about French users who posted anti-Semitic messages, a French tribunal ruled.
Thursday’s order by a Grand Instance Court judge in Paris came in response to a lawsuit by the Union of French Jewish Students that sought to limit the impunity with which Twitter users may disseminate anti-Semitic incitement.
“It is a major precedent and breakthrough in the attempt to balance privacy online with the need to combat hate speech,” Sacha Reingewirtz, vice president of the students’ union, told JTA.
The court, Reingewirtz added, imposed a pending fine of $1,300 against Twitter for every day in which it fails to deliver whatever details it possesses on users who are suspected of disseminating hate speech on Twitter. The ruling, he said, applies only to users in France.
Additionally, the ruling by the Paris court’s 17th chamber ordered Twitter to establish a system in which French users may flag anti-Semitic content, which would be reviewed by Twitter before removal and possible referral to the authorities.
At the court, a few dozen activists assembled alongside journalists.
“Social networks were created as essentially democratic tools that are also being used by people who oppose democratic principles,” Nuno Wahnon Martins, director of European Affairs at B’nai B’rith International, told JTA. “Like any democracy, the social networks also need to defend themselves, and the first step is to deny those who spread hate speech in anonymity as something to hide behind.”
Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, welcomed the ruling and told JTA his organization would "use this to lobby other European countries to join in this combat against anti-Semitism."
The student association sued Twitter in November after the San Fransisco-based company refused to reveal the identities of users who flooded the site under the hashtag #unbonjuif (#agoodjew), with examples including “#agoodjew is a dead Jew.”
The hashtag was the third most popular in France in October.