A French court this week ordered Twitter to disclose the names of users accused of posting racist and anti-Semitic tweets, rejecting an appeal that the company filed in March. In a decision handed down Wednesday, a Paris appeals court confirmed that Twitter must provide its user data to France's Union of Jewish Students (UEJF) and four other human rights organizations that filed a complaint against the company in November 2012.
The UEJF took action against Twitter last year after the hashtags #unbonjuif ("a good Jew") and #unjuifmort ("a dead Jew") began surfacing on the social media site. Twitter deleted some of the controversial tweets in response, but appealed a lower court order to disclose the identities of the users who wrote them.
On Wednesday, the appeals court determined that Twitter had not provided convincing justification for witholding the names, and ordered the company to comply with the lower court's ruling.
"adhering to French law is not optional."
"We have made important progress with Twitter since December," government spokesperson Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said in a statement Wednesday. "Anti-discrimination organizations can intervene to stop the avalanche of hate speech that regularly floods the internet, but the illegal messages posted on Twitter remain no less illegal, and adhering to French law is not optional."
"Twitter must comply with legal orders to allow the identification, and therefore the conviction, of the authors of these hateful tweets," Vallaud-Belkacem continued.
Twitter faced a similar controversy last year in Germany, when it decided to block a neo-Nazi account at the request of German authorities. Last January, the company announced that it would begin censoring content within specific countries in response to requests from local authorities.
In a statement posted to the UEJF site Wednesday, organization president Jonathan Hayoun lauded the court's decision, saying it's clear that Twitter can no longer "play with French justice."
Twitter may resubmit its appeal
"Our goal is to put a stop to the sense of impunity that racist and anti-Semitic authors feel on the internet," Hayoun said. "And Twitter must cooperate when this is the case."
In an email statement to The Verge, a Twitter spokesperson said the company may choose to contest the decision at a later date.
"We are disappointed that the court has decided not to hear our appeal," the company said. "We are considering our options, including resubmitting the appeal."