France Launches Investigation Into Anti-Gay Tweets

Dan Littauer
Authored by
Dan Littauer

September 6, 2013
11:27 a.m.

Twitter may be forced to identify details of users who posted anti-gay tweets to France’s authorities, following a complaint filed by a French gay rights group.

IDAHO Committee (International Day Against Homophobia) filed a complaint with French authorities when anti-gay hate tweets appeared on 10 and 11 August using hashtags #MortAuGay (death to gays) #LesGaysDoiventDispaîratreCar (gays must be vanquished), and #BrulonsLesGaysSurDu (burn the gays).

Such hashtags emerged as a trending topic on twitter following a heated and at times violent public debate that lead to France legalizing marriage equality.

“These illicit tweets on Twitter’s site characterize the offence of public incitement to discrimination, to hatred or national, racial or religious violence,” the complaint read.

“Despite alerts, Twitter allowed a homophobic atmosphere to develop on the social network and gave no serious response” [to the tweets], the group said.

Following the complaint, French prosecutors opened a formal investigation into the tweets, confirmed a Paris court to RFI on Wednesday.

The anti-gay tweets were also condemned by France’s Minister for Women’s Rights, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem who tweeted: “I condemn homophobic tweets. Our work with Twitter and groups against homophobia, is essential,” she said.

Tens of thousands of people have signed an online petition calling on twitter to add a “report abuse” button to tweets and take action against homophobic tweets.

“We support free expression, and we understand that there are some people who simply don’t like gay people, but this is a call for the extermination of the gay community,” told Alexandre Marcel from IDAHO to The Local.

“Twitter hasn’t deleted a single homophobic tweet, nor removed a single homophobic hashtag from its list of most popular trending terms,” he said adding that this could particularly be harmful to LGBT teens.

Despite press inquiries, Twitter has so far refused to offer an official statement on either the complaint by IDAHO France or the issue of anti-gay hate speech in general.

Prosecutors are looking into forcing Twitter to identify users tweeting anti-gay hate following a case in July this year, when a French court obliged the company to do so regarding anti-Semitic tweets.

Speaking after the court’s decision in January, lawyer Philippe Schmidt stated that the remarks made on Twitter should be treated the same as if they were made in any public forum.

“Having freedom of speech does not mean you have a right to say what you want and a right to hide behind your anonymity. People on Twitter do not need to be anonymous. They should not have special treatment. It should be the same as if they said it on the street,” he said.

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