Just yesterday, we reported that Twitter had acquired Vine and just today it was reported that a French court is requiring Twitter to identify racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic posts. There isn’t anything wrong with removing offensive post, as these kind of posts turn off other users and encroach on the right to be able to exchange content on Twitter.
Twitter: How Did This Come About?
Just last fall, the group called Union of Jewish Students petition Twitter to remove offensive tweets. In addition, Twitter also made the decision to suspend a neo-Nazi group based in Hanover. However, the Union of Jewish Students also wanted identifying information, but Twitter would not give it up and so the group went to the courts. Then the courts made the decision to force Twitter to identify the group. If Twitter will not comply within two weeks they face a fine of €1000 a day.
This may seem unusual for Americans, as we have grown up under the First Amendment and though it is illegal to incite others to violence, hate speech is still protected. But in Europe, such protection for hate speech is unheard of.
Did the French courts make the right decision?
This is a matter of debate and it passes from tech news to what personal freedoms really mean. Personally, such speech turns off other users and makes them more unlikely, or at least more uncomfortable, to post on Twitter. The rights of those users should also be protected and even in the United States’s way of thinking, encroaches on their own personal freedoms.
In recent years, we have made a concentrated effort to focus on the bullying that takes place over the web. This kind of writing and posts borders on intimidation and is a kind of bullying. As such, it is important to recognize it as such. Otherwise, abuse is more likely to occur.
That being said, it is important to recognize what is truly hateful speech and what is religious, contrasting moral views, or any other type of belief which doesn’t incite violence, but is contested among people.
It will be interesting to see what Twitter choose to do in the coming days. One can hope that able internally crackdown on such groups without sacrificing the ability to voice one’s own views.