Twitter has once again found itself at the centre of a legal storm after French prosecutors demanded that the micro blogging site handed over the details of a user who posted anti-Semitic comments on the site last October.
Twitter is claiming that the French legal system is not able to ask for such details because the site is governed only by American law and only a judge in the US would have the power to retrieve this information.
The case arose after a Jewish student bodies asked twitter to take down various tweets that had been posted onto the site under the hashtag of #unbonjuif, which translates as #agoodjew.
One of the posts in question said “#agood jew is a dead jew” and it is being argued in France that this contravenes the strict anti-hate laws applicable in the country.
Various Jewish groups, including the Jewish Students of France have launched the case against Twitter with the court in France now asking Twitter to hand over all the details that they have about the people who posted the comments so that they can then be prosecuted.
Jonathan Hayoun from the Union of French Jewish Students said: “Because it does not take the necessary measures to identify where the tweets come from, Twitter is offering a platform to racism and anti-Semitism”.
The lawyer acting on behalf of Twitter in France said: “Data is collected and stored in the Untied States…Should I submit myself to the law of a different country to where I work?”.
Twitter are being accused of placing the commercial value of protecting the identity of users above the importance of preventing racism and hate speech.
Stephane Lilti from the council of Jewish Interests aid: “Twitter is playing a commercial game by raising a number of legal hurdles to not having to comply with its legal obligations.”
A verdict in the case is expected to be given by the french judge Anne-Marie Sauteraud but in the mean time two french members of government have said that they will be speaking personally to executives of Twitter about the case this week to try and resolve the controversial problem.
This is not the first time that Twitter have come under fire about racist talk on the site and last year they shut down an account run by German neo-Nazi’s.
Twitter have said that they have no problem in closing down any accounts that are deemed to be illegal but that they do not intend to hand over any information about users unless they are ordered to by a judge and currently that can only happen in America.
If Twitter lose this case it could open the door to many people in countries outside the US requesting information about Twitter users for legal cases.