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Twitter hands over user data in “good Jew” hashtag controversy

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Twitter, facing lawsuits and ongoing pressure from the French government, announced on Friday that it would hand over data identifying certain users who posted anti-Semitic tweets with the hashtag “unbonjuif.”

The decision comes after a Jewish student group, claiming the tweets violated France’s laws against hate speech, demanded that Twitter disclose their authors. The hashtag, which translates as “a good Jew,” trended on Twitter last fall as users published a racist torrent against Jews and Israel.

The decision to disclose data about the authors is a setback for Twitter, which says it is committed to free speech principles and “protecting the user’s voice.” It has also gotten a negative reception on Twitter, where critics and news outlets described the decision as “bending” to the French government:

Twitter unbonjuif screenshot

Twitter, in a statement, said it will “actively continue contributing to the fight against racism and anti-Semitism,” adding that it will take measures to “improve the accessibility of the reporting procedure of illegal Tweets.”

The French hashtag controversy reflects an ongoing dilemma for Twitter and other U.S. tech companies: how to comply with local laws on issues like hate speech and blasphemy while also staying true to free speech principles expressed by the First Amendment.

My colleague, Mathew Ingram, has in the past praised Twitter CEO Dick Costolo’s commitment to be the “free-speech wing of the free-speech party.” As the company grows, however, those ideals appear to be increasingly colliding with national governments.

5 Responses to “Twitter hands over user data in “good Jew” hashtag controversy”

  1. There can be more systems in social media websites. Now a days the social media networks are being highly powerful in spreading any controversies. The hash tagging fellows users do know its after effects. Their hashing purpose are different. Somebody hash to promotes their links and website pages. There are many sub business are going on with twitter. Many websites earns millions of money by building up the number of twitter followers. It is not a small business now. Home many fellows who do profile followers number building works use hash tags widely. Strong cyber laws and corporation of social media websites can only prevent these kind of situations

  2. gregorylent

    people, and CORPORATIONS, need to learn to stand up to governments … what would the government do to a microsoft or a google … or a twitter . . ? the blowback would be incredible, if they did.