Media News - Thursday, January 10, 2013
Twitter has earned a reputation as a free speech defender in America. Now the micro-blogging site is resisting government pressure and legal demands by Jewish groups to hand over the identity of users who tweet objectionable things. The controversy deepened on Tuesday in Paris, where Twitter told a judge that it needed the green light of an American court before it could disclose who was using hashtags like #unbonjuif (“a good Jew”) and #siJetaisNazi (“if I was a Nazi”). The lawsuit came about as Jewish student groups asked a court to force Twitter to comply with the country’s laws against hate speech. The French government is not directly involved in the case, but a senior Minister told the newspaper Le Monde that Twitter “has every interest in adapting to the legal, philosophic and ethical culture of the countries where they want to do business.” The situation places Twitter in a bind. On one hand, the country is obliged to comply with the laws of the countries in which it operates. But on the other hand, the French legal request goes against the First Amendment and the company’s commitment to stand up for its users’ voice. The difference is that the U.S. has a legal culture where “the strongest weapon against hateful speech ... is more speech” while European laws seek to use speech laws to curb racism. Twitter could still hold out if it loses, of course. But this could lead French authorities to target Twitter’s assets and operations in Paris as a source of leverage. If Twitter simply decamped, the French would conceivably have to consider China-style restrictions on Twitter. (Gigaom)
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