Twitter require local users to apply local laws. Now that sounds simple enough to me, but how many people actually pay any attention to this rule? Not so many I guess.
Normally I’d say that if a person is in the public eye and that’s where they want to be, a celebrity you could say then I think that they need to take the tittle tattle of Twitter with more than a large pinch of salt. I’m not saying they are asking for it as such, but celebrity status will naturally generate its own detractors, its almost a scientific fact. But, if a celebrity were to be offended, hurt and damaged I would still support their rights like anybody else.
Some matters are a private concern, this is my view. But Twitter is a phenomenon that national laws are struggling to get to grips with and I’m quite sure that I’m not on my own with this opinion. I’m also certain that those in charge at Twitter are aware of this state of affairs and by some of their actions (or lack thereof) they are happy to exploit this apparent loop hole.
So does Twitter have some level of responsibility for what gets posted or not? The answer of course is not a simple one.
As a medium of communication they cannot be held directly responsible for every post no matter how offensive. But, if there are a series of posts or a general movement which has gained some sort of momentum, could be recognized as a group of similar postings around a single or small group of interests then I do think that Twitter has some level of responsibility. I’m sure they have big enough computers to work it out.
So I have some deep misgivings about how Twitter plans to deal in the French courts regarding the hashtag #UnBonJuif (a good Jew). I wont bore you with the details but those behind this hashtag are anti-Semtic mindless morons. Comments and ‘jokes’ are posted which relate to Jews and the best kind of Jews. One post shows a pile of ash with the title “the best kind of Jew”. Twitter intends to run the defense that they are American and so are protected under the first amendment.
Fortunately the French court ruled on Jan 24 2013 that Twitter must identify the names of those behind the hashtag. The case is being sought by French students who are suing Twitter for €35 million for failing to identify the people behind the hashtag. The Union of Jewish French Students are suing the social network in a lawsuit filed with a Paris correctional tribunal, for failing to honour a court ruling to identify users who posted the anti-Semitic comments, according to AFP.
UEJF President Jonathan Hayoun told the French news agency: “Twitter is playing the indifference card and does not respect the ruling. They have resolved to protect the anonymity of the authors of these tweets and have made themselves accomplices to racists and anti-Semites.”
The students say they will give any money won in the lawsuit to Holocaust charities.
So Twitter are these just bad jokes made about celebrities or harmful posts intended to offend and inspire hatred?
Worryingly however, the hashtag was the 3rd highest rating in France for parts of 2012, so the French have a wider problem than Twitter I think. But for now outing the bigots would be a beginning.