France continues to press the limits of current Internet laws.
Last week it was Google, Amazon and others as France pressed harder and harder for taxes of some sort, almost any sort, to be imposed on the huge multinational Internet companies that do business in their country over the Internet. This week France goes after Twitter as France finds hate speech in various Tweets.
The problem began in October of 2012 when what one organization, the UEJF, considered anti-Semitic Tweeter tags (i.e. #agoodjew) began trending on Twitter and gaining widespread attention. The UEJF (in English translated, the Association of Jewish Students in France) took legal action against Twitter in French courts and asked the Parisian court to make Twitter acknowledge the issue and provide the account information of those that were behind the Twitter tag.
The court came to a conclusion this past Thursday that Twitter’s French site has to make a viable way to report tweets that break French laws, such as the one in this case which borders a hate crime (if not directly considered one) in France. Twitter is not new to this issue of hate speech over its network though. Twitter has more than 200 million users, and oddly enough although Twitter’s home office and servers reside in the U.S., a majority of Twitter’s 200 million plus users are outside of the U.S. Also as part of the court’s decision, Twitter was asked to give up information that would reveal the identity of those that were behind the Twitter tags. Jonathan Hayoun is the UEJF President and is quoted as saying, “We ask Twitter to take responsibility”.
The fact that Twitter does not have a French office location has made the issue a bit tougher for French officials. Unlike Facebook and Google who do have offices in France and have been bombarded by the country seeking taxes on revenue gains and have even had records confiscated from offices at one point (i.e. Google), Twitter is in no such political danger. The fact that Twitter is doing business in France though via the Internet clearly opens them up as a target by the French government. Twitter refused hand over the identities of those that violated French laws, claiming to be bound only by laws that govern it in the United States.
There’s a continual battle now escalating between Europe and the U.S. with regard to the large multinational Internet companies that are headquartered in the U.S. but doing business in Europe, and France is seemingly taking the lead in much of it.
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