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Twitter Ordered to Disclose Names

Twitter has received its fair share of media attention in recent years. It’s been said to have begun a revolution, as well as beings responsible to crashes in the stock market. No matter what, one of the most interesting issues around the Twitter debate has been the identity of the individual posting the short, 140-character messages. Recently, the website garnered even more attention when a French appeals court upheld a lower court’s ruling ordering Twitter to reveal details of users accused of posting anti-Semitic content.

Background

In a decision made on Wednesday, June 12, 2013, the Paris Court of Appeals supported a January 24 ruling that stated Twitter must provide data on certain users to France’s Union of Jewish students and four other human rights organizations that filed a complaint against the company back in November of 2012 for permitting anti-Semitic content.

The suit was initially brought forward by France’s Union of Jewish Students and other rights groups, and arose in response to hashtags that created a conversation discussing violence against Jewish people. The court decided that Twitter was ultimately responsible for the content posted on its website.

The lower court’s ruling in January gave Twitter15 days to comply and imposed a penalty of $1,300 for each day beyond the initial period that the company failed to meet the compliance standards. According to the French online magazine PC INpact, which published the latest ruling in its entirety, the judge’s decision could run Twitter around $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,” said Jonathan Hayoun, president of the Union of Jewish Students in France (UEJF). “Unfortunately, there has been no progress or cooperation by Twitter so far.”

Twitter’s Response

The company has voiced its disappointment with the ruling, stating that the concerns are less about the content of the tweets, rather the privacy implications of revealing a user’s personal details. It erodes the idea that – if need be – people are able to tweet anonymously.

The company has appealed the January ruling, prompting UEJF to open a separate procedure against Twitter in March at the Paris correctional tribunal for violating hate speech restrictions. UEJF asked that the court force Twitter to pay $50 million as compensation to anti-racist organizations in France.

Twitter then argued that since it is an American company, it adheres to US laws, and is thus protected by the First Amendment and its broad free speech liberties. However, the French judge said that comments by internet users in France are subject to France’s stricter legislation countering racist and hateful expression.

Twitter has supported its initial decision not to release the user’s information. If Twitter should turn over user identity information at the request of the government, certain users – especially those living under oppressive governments – may begin to shy away from using the online service. While most people would be appalled with racist comments posted on the site, dissident political tweets may result in demands for user identity information from their governments, leaving Twitter in between a rock and a hard place.

Of course, Facebook and other online social networks are watching the developments of this case closely.

At the French Appeals Court

On June 13, 2013, the Paris Court of Appeal struck down Twitter’s appeal in which the company argued that it should not be required to take action against the tweets unless they are deemed illegal in the country where the tweet was reported.

Based on the appeals court ruling, Twitter is now required to provide the UEJF and other groups with the names of those behind the tweets in question. In response to this ruling, a Twitter representative said, “We are disappointed that the court has decided not to hear our appeal. We are considering our options, including resubmitting the appeal.”

Summary

This article discusses the case between Twitter and the Union of Jewish French Students (UEJF) and other anti-racism groups across France. In June 2013, a French Appeals Court ordered the website to disclose the names of users accused of making anti-Semitic remarks.

CIPP Exam Preparation

In preparation for the Certified Information Privacy Professional/Europe(CIPP/E), a privacy professional should be comfortable with topics related to this post, including:

  • National data protection laws across Europe (I.C.e.)
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