We have been following (here and here and here and here and here) the worsening situation in England concerning free speech. As noted in a recent column, free speech appears to be dying in the West with the increasing criminalization of speech under discrimination, hate, and blasphemy laws. Now, a French Jewish student group is adding its name to the movement to curtail free speech rights. The Union of Jewish Students (UEJF) is demanding 38.5 million euros after Twitter has declined to turn over the identity of people responsible for comments deemed anti-Semitic by the group. The students appear to have no concept or at least concern for the loss of anonymity in free speech. Like others, they are focused only on their insular grievance with no appreciation for the harm caused by such court orders.
Jonathan Hayoun, president of the UEJF, expressed no concern of his role in the attack on free speech and simply accused Twitter of “playing the indifference card in not respecting the [earlier] decision of January 24.” The company was given two weeks to turn over the identities of the writers. What Hayoun considers “indifference” is a company trying to protect the free speech values that are at the heart of the Internet. It is Hayoun and his colleagues — and the French court — that are indifferent to the loss of free speech protection. None of us, including Twitter, has any sympathy for anti-Semites. However, it is free speech and not these writers that is at risk in this latest effort.
Hayoun appears completely uneducated, or at least unaware, as to the harm caused by such actions for free speech. He insisted that “[i]n protecting the anonymity of the author of these tweets it is making itself an accomplice and offering a highway for racists and anti-Semites.” That is absurd, of course. Twitter like other sites is a highway for public comment and free speech. With valuable speech comes a lot of low-grade speech. That is the cost of free speech. However, once you go down the slippery slope of speech regulation and punishment, that highway will become nothing more than an assembly line for approved and sanctioned thoughts.
Twitter says it will appeal and I wish them the very best in doing so. As for these students, I will only note that history is filled with students, including French students, fighting for liberty. They would not be among them.
44 thoughts on “French Jewish Students Demand Millions In Damages Against Twitter Over Anti-Semitic Tweets”
better skin 1, April 9, 2013 at 10:46 am
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On balance, the assault on free speech by lawsuit is also appearing globally from corporatists acting to preempt and intimidate critical perspectives against their advantaged money power. Assault by legal threat is a tactic that is more than abused…in real world practice, but legal reprimand or liability against such legalistic attacks by “lawyer enforcement agency” is not recognized as a legitimate concern by what is often a congress of lawyers so legislation is not likely to appear as remedy.
Pre-emptive lawsuits are epidemic for a host of reasons, simply because they are easy to utilize as a reactionary weapon and are not typically questioned as to their authentic motivation or ethical intentionality. Transgressive damages to free speech, meanwhile, is actually favored by hard right wing reactionaries, so it plays directly into the hands of progressive tyranny.
In that regard it is not surprising that perhaps a certain passive aggression has appeared that threatens free speech given all concerned;…but then so has government sponsored knee jerk “patriotism” stifle truthful exchanges under certain conditions and anti-war is now off target when addressing military “heroes” who may well be pathological killers in some cases. Unpopular thought?…well ask yourself why some Jewish individuals are reacting “institutionally” to strike back perhaps irrationally but perhaps quite rationally;…perhaps legitimately, or perhaps opportunistically at what they perceive as a threatening context or just another step in the big game of positioning for power?..
In any case; to place things in perspective here is a institutional gripe from an Israeli perspective concerning French Jews: and keep in mind that France has the world’s third largest Jewish population (about 500,000).
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