By by Rory Mulholland (AFP) – Oct 19, 2012
PARIS — Twitter, a day after saying it blocked a neo-Nazi account in Germany in a global first, made another major concession Friday by agreeing to remove anti-Semitic posts in France, a lawyer said.
The company did not immediately confirm the move, but the lawyer for a French Jewish student union said that after it threatened legal action, Twitter agreed to take down many of the offending tweets that have recently flooded the site.
UEJF lawyer Stephane Lilti said after a meeting with Twitter's lawyer in France that his client had scored an "important victory" over the micro-blogging site.
The student union on Thursday threatened to seek an injunction against Twitter to try to make it remove the offending tweets which proliferated in France with the hashtag #unbonjuif (#AGoodJew).
The tag has been one of the top trending words on French-language tweets and is often followed by comments such as: "#AGoodJew is a dead Jew".
The UEJF provided Twitter late Friday with around 30 tweets that it wants removed, along with a list of about a dozen Twitter handles, Lilti said, adding that the list wasn't exhaustive and would grow with time.
"It's the start, hopefully, of a fruitful collaboration," he said, but added that it did not mean an end to any legal proceedings, as Twitter was refusing to provide them with the identities of the authors of the offending posts.
The union was hoping in particular to learn the identity of the "Usama_BenLadeen" user who had written the "#AGoodJew is a dead Jew" tweet.
UEJF leader Jonathan Hayoun welcomed Twitter's "swift reaction in removing racist and anti-Semitic tweets that we had pointed out to them."
The reported deal with Twitter comes a week after France's SPCJ Jewish security watchdog said anti-Semitic acts surged by 45 percent since the start of the year and were given new impetus by attacks by Islamic extremist Mohamed Merah.
Merah went on a shooting rampage in March in and around the southern city of Toulouse, killing a rabbi, three Jewish children and three French paratroopers before being shot dead in a police siege.
Hayoun himself had said Thursday that the anti-Semitic situation in France "has never before been this bad."
Also on Thursday, Twitter said it had blocked a neo-Nazi group's account at the request of German police.
The move was the first time that the US firm had applied a policy known as "country-withheld content" which allows it to block an account at the request of state authorities.
In a move pitting censorship concerns against national laws on hate speech, Twitter said it had deployed the tool developed only this year to restrict content in a single country rather than simply delete posted comments.
German politicians welcomed the step to stop distributing the Besseres Hannover group's "hateful ideology", adding that social media sites including Facebook and YouTube had also complied with the request.
Twitter was forced to apologise in July for suspending the account of a British journalist in an incident which prompted accusations it favoured its commercial ties with Olympics broadcaster NBC over media freedoms.
The move came after an outcry over the suspension of Guy Adams, Los Angeles correspondent for The Independent, who had tweeted his outrage over NBC's delay in broadcasting the opening ceremony in order to catch the prime-time audience.
The case did not stem from an official request to block an account.
British police are also investigating messages published on the Twitter account of British National Party chief Nick Griffin who tweeted the address of a gay couple who won a landmark court ruling on discrimination, ending with message: "Say no to heterophobia!"
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