Twitter Yields to Pressure in Hate Case in France 

(New York Times) – The French Union of Jewish Students and SOS Racisme had sought the identities of the users, who had used pseudonyms, and in January a French court ordered Twitter to hand over the data. Twitter appealed, and lost, in June. 

Twitter, which has assiduously branded itself as an advocate of free speech, has agreed to identify several users who posted anti-Semitic comments on its service, and whom French authorities are seeking to prosecute for violating that country’s anti-hate laws.

The case shows how challenging it is for Silicon Valley companies to champion the free speech rights of users while complying with the laws of countries where they do business. It also highlights Silicon Valley’s Europe problem: the Continent represents a large and lucrative market, but its lawmakers, regulators and courts have hounded the industry in recent months on issues as varied as privacy and antitrust law.

For months, Twitter had fought a court order obtained by a private French citizens’ group demanding that the company turn over the user information. But on Friday, the company said it had handed over the information to a prosecutor in Paris, in response to a law enforcement request. By turning over the information, Twitter said, it had ended a lawsuit related to the court order brought by the private group.

In a statement Friday, the company said: “in response to a valid legal request, Twitter has provided the prosecutor of Paris, Presse et Libertés Publiques section of the Paris Tribunal de Grande Instance, with data that may enable the identification of certain users that the Vice-Prosecutor believes have violated French law.”

The statement took pains to note that Twitter was providing the information to law enforcement through a legal request, not to the private group.

The case has important implications for Twitter users worldwide, as governments increasingly try to extract user information from the service. Legal experts say Twitter could have insisted that the French authorities seek to extract the user data by filing a claim in the United States, where the company is based.

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