Earlier this year, a French civil court ruled that Twitter needed to identify any users that posted hateful or anti-Semitic messages; on Wednesday, the Union of Jewish French Students (UEJF) sued Twitter for roughly $50 million, claiming the San Francisco-based social network failed to honor that court ruling.
The new lawsuit was filed with a Paris correctional tribunal, according to French news organization AFP.
Last October, the UEJF sued Twitter after the hashtag "#unBonJuif" (French for "#aGoodJew") became the third most popular trending topic on Twitter in France. With so many tweets indexed under that hashtag, many users took the opportunity to post Holocaust jokes, racially charged statements (e.g. "#aGoodJew is a dead jew"), photos of dustpans filled with dust, and even calls to kill more Jews. Twitter removed all of the offending tweets, but the UEJF wanted these users to be identified, so it took the matter to court.
After a French civil court ruled in favor of UEJF on Jan. 24, Twitter was required to identify anyone who broke France's hate speech laws after that date. Even though Twitter originally argued it only complies with U.S. laws and is thus protected by the full scope of the First Amendment and its associated privileges related to free speech, the French judge ultimately decided that Internet users in France should be subject to the country's tighter laws against racist and hateful forms of expression.
Union president Jonathan Hayoun said he and his organization filed their second lawsuit in six months because Twitter had "ignored" the previous ruling.
“Twitter is playing the indifference card and does not respect the ruling,” Hayoun told AFP. “They have resolved to protect the anonymity of the authors of these tweets and have made themselves accomplices to racists and anti-Semites.”
Twitter reserves the right to release any information ordered by law enforcement or a court, and has done so recently. In September, Twitter turned over the inaccessible deleted tweets from an Occupy Wall Street protester to the Manhattan D.A.'s office, and in October, the company blocked access to a neo-Nazi account based in Germany after being contacted by the nation’s government.
We've reached out to both Twitter and the UEJF for more information and we'll update this story as soon as we learn more.
UEJF said it will pledge any money won from the Twitter lawsuit toward a local organization working to preserve the memory of the Holocaust.