In a disappointing concession by Twitter, the company has agreed to hand over the details of people who post racist and anti-Semitic abuse anonymously on its site. We previously discussed the effort of Jewish students to strip anonymity from posters and punish people for using language that they consider anti-Semitic. It is in my view another major attack on free speech – part of a worldwide reduction of free speech rights.
In October 2012, Jewish student bodies asked Twitter to remove a number of messages which appeared under the hashtag #unbonjuif (#agoodjew) and posters who wrote such things as “#agoodjew is a dead Jew.” France has sweeping hate crime laws that criminalize such speech. It is a fundamental difference in the understanding of free speech. Civil libertarians believe that people have the right to express thoughts, even reprehensible and racist thoughts. It was particularly disappointing to see students (historically advocates for civil liberties) leading this fight for censorship.
The Union of Jewish Students of France (UEJF) and three other similar groups took Twitter to court to demand the names. They accused Twitter of being a platform for anti-Semitism simply by allowing people to speak freely. It is part of a move globally to restrict the world’s greatest forum for free speech. Governments are obviously fearful of the power of the public in being able to speak freely, particularly repressive governments like China and Iran. Yet, citizens are also attacking free speech to require such sites to conform to their sensibilities and demands. I agree with these students that this is viral and disgraceful speech. However, they are leading a fight that will ultimately limit all speech and kill the single greatest vehicle of free thought ever devised by humanity. It is a Pyrrhic victory to be sure.
Source: Daily Mail