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Twitter ordered to identify authors of French racist tweets

A French court has ruled that Twitter must hand over data about users who posted racist or anti-Semitic tweets.

The social network must comply with the court's ruling "within the framework of its French site," the AFP reported.

"We are currently reviewing the court's decision," a Twitter spokesman said.

At issue are tweets posted last fall with the hashtags #UnBonJuif (a good Jew), #SiMonFilsEstGay (if my son is gay), and #SiMaFilleRamèneUnNoir (if my daughter brings home a black guy). The Union of Jewish Students (UEJF), a French advocacy group, filed a complaint that demanded Twitter remove some of the offensive tweets.

The accounts in question were deactivated in October, and Twitter now has 15 days to hand over the user information or face fines of €1,000 (£850) per day, according to French publication Le Point.

While such tweets are frowned upon in the US, they are protected there by the First Amendment. Countries like France and Germany, however, have laws that ban hate speech.

That conundrum prompted Twitter to announce in January 2012 that it would block tweets that ran afoul of certain countries' restrictions on speech. That resulted in backlash from users who feared the service would honour takedown requests from repressive regimes, but Twitter denied it would do so. The first time the company blocked content was in October 2012, when it suspended access to the account of a neo-Nazi group in Germany.

Twitter, however, has resisted handing over details about its users, with mixed results. In September, the company was ordered by a US judge to hand over information about an Occupy Wall Street protester. In August, it complied with a court order to release data to New York authorities about a user who threatened to kill people at a Manhattan theatre.

During a hearing earlier this month, a lawyer for Twitter explained that since the data is collected in the US, the French judgment should be authorised by an American judge, Le Point said. The French court, however, disagreed, citing the rights afforded by the First Amendment in the US, which do not apply in France.

Image Credit: Flickr (whizzer)