Twitter removes French anti-Semitic tweets

Twitter has agreed to remove anti-Semitic tweets circulating on its service in France.

The offensive tweets have been circulating the social networking site over the last week.

Operating under the hashtag #unbonjuif (#agoodjew), the perpetrators who are not known posted racist tweets such as "#UnBonJuif est un juif mort" translated as "A good Jew is a dead Jew;" and "est cuit thermostat 6" suggesting Jews should be cooked at high temperatures.

The tweets are being removed following the threat of legal action by a Jewish student group. The Union of Jewish Students of France (UEJF) was planning to get a court injunction to make Twitter remove the offensive tweets.

The decision came after a meeting between Twitter's senior management, the UEJF president Jonathan Hayoun during which the UEJF handed over a list of the posts it wanted removed.

Over the past few days, the #unbonjuif hashtag has been trending on Twitter and the phrase has become popular among French-speaking users of the service. Many of the tweets bearing the tag contain racist comments.

When the racist tweets were discovered earlier in the week, there were complaints that Twitter makes it difficult for users to report offensive tweets - a claim which the social network vehemently denied.

"When free expression crosses the line into speech that society recognizes as an affront to individuals' human dignity and as thinly-veiled calls for violence, then service provider has a responsibility to establish acceptable boundaries," said Abraham Foxmann, national director of the US-based Anti-Defamation League.

Referring to today's decision, UEJF lawyer Stephane Lilti told AFP that his client had scored an "important victory" over Twitter but urged the social network to reveal the identities of the offenders.

The decision to remove the messages comes soon after Twitter shut down an account used by a German neo-Nazi group at the request of German police.

The block was carried out using a feature introduced in January called "Country Withheld Content". This means users in Germany will be unable to see messages posted by the account but the tweets will be visible to the rest of the world.