Twitter Caves To Demand Of French Jewish Students To Reveal Identifies Of Posters

150px-Twitter_2012_logoIn 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

54 thoughts on “Twitter Caves To Demand Of French Jewish Students To Reveal Identifies Of Posters”

  1. At approximately 1:22 into the interview clip, Paula Deen introduces Hollis Johnson to the audience while making a joke regarding his skin color. She immediately states that it is what is inside that counts. The audience responds appreciatively.

    It may be reckless to presume Deen’s intentions, but I would guess that she is saying, in effect, she can’t be racist because she has a close relation with a person with dark skin color.

    I will leave it to the viewer to decide for his or herself if making a joke about skin color reflects racism or a progressive view of interpersonal relations.

    1. “I will leave it to the viewer to decide for his or herself if making a joke about skin color reflects racism or a progressive view of interpersonal relations. ”

      She kissed the man for gods sake. Any person who thinks that her remarks reflects racism is several cards short of a full deck, and any person who thinks that normal person could think that is, themselves, a few cards short of a full deck.

  2. “It would be nice if the white people here complaining how these poor black people have been put upon, stop assuming that these blacks are innept children who need white people to defend them.”

    Why would it be nice for anyone to stop pointing out racist and racism.

    Why would anyone assume that pointing out racist acts and words is based on the assumption that someone else is inept or childlike.

    I think it is completely illogical to assert that a clear statement about one person necessarily implies belief about a completely different group.

    I think we all have an obligation to deal with racism when it presents itself. It is a bit of a tangent but I would also include sexism and ageism along with racism. I will leave it to each to consider and decide his or her level of commitment and involvement in dealing with racism, sexism and ageism.

    And even if that does not quit rise to the level of an obligation, I don’t think we need to ask anyone permission to make statements and present evidence of racism and racist speech.

    Our words and actions against racism might, in fact, help someone. But just in case you don’t get it – the main reason for calling out racism and racist is that racism is offensive and dangerous. The main reason for opposing racism is for our own self interest.

    If acting in our own self interest in fact aligns us with others and gives strength to our cause then that is a wonderful thing. And if some of those we support in common cause are less capable, for example frail elders, then our efforts is even more important.

    Why would anyone suggest that it is inappropriate to oppose racism? The only reason that occurs to me that anyone would suggest we stop opposing racism is that the person wants to make the world safe for racist and the expression of racism.

    1. “Why would it be nice for anyone to stop pointing out racist and racism.”
      Ahhh. Because there is no evidence of racism? If I understand the term correctly racism involves a kind of hostile behavior, either verbal or physical, directed to another based on the persons race. Silly me, I would assume that someone with high room temperature IQ, let alone one in the triple digits, would know if another person has directed hostile behavior towards them. I have yet to hear any black person actually voice a complaint about Paule Deens behavior towards them or towards someone that they know. Hence no actual racism.

      Describing a person as a nigger if that person is actually, as Chris Rock so well describes them, a nigger is not racism.

      And what, exactly, is a racist word? Do blacks have a sacred word that only they can use? Are blacks somehow so special that they get their own words that only they can use? Boy, talk of racist.

      If you are claiming that Ms,. Deen acted in a racist manner than who, exactly did she act agains? Have they complained? I have not heard of any such complaints.

      I have yet to see a single point out, with regard to Ms. Deen “pointing out racist acts and words.” Certainly you have not pointed out any. I have seen people claiming that she acted in such a manner, but since no one has come forward to say that they or a known friend were the victims of such behavior than we must assume that those making the accusation are clearly stating that the alleged victims are to inept and childlike to realize their status as victim

      “I think we all have an obligation to deal with racism when it presents itself.”

      And how, exactly do we know when it presents itself if no one who is the alleged victim complains? I mean without assuming that the poor victim is to much the fool to realize that they are a victim?

      I don’t think we need to ask anyone permission to make statements and present evidence of racism and racist speech.”

      Where is the evidence? When, exactly, assuming that I was actually shot by what everyone would consider a very dark skinned person, would the statement “I was shot by a nigger during a holdup” be racist?

      Why would anyone suggest that it is inappropriate to oppose racism?

      I do not know. I, personally, think that granting blacks the exclusive right to use the word niggers is a form of racism. It means that they get the exclusive right to use a word. They are entitled to something that no one else is because of their race. Sounds like racism to me.

  3. “Is there a statute of limitations applicable as to Ms. Deen’s actions?”

    On a different thread on this blog that was almost entirely devoted to Deen, one of the key questions posed by many was whether the remarks attributed to Deen reflected the current Deen or if she had changed since she uttered them.

    Of course, for some racist actions and words are unforgivable.

    But it is clear from that other series of comments that many believe that change is possible and that the important issue is the quality of the person as they are today.

    Unfortunately for Deen, many also concluded that there does not seem to be a lot of change in Deen.

    Some even cited her current explanations and appeals for forgiveness to argue that Deen just does not seem to get it.

    I, myself, am struck by the recollection of an interview in which she calls an employee to the stage and makes a supposedly friendly joke regarding the persons skin color.

    Some might argue that the ‘joke’ demonstrates close, comfortable, friendly relationship.

    I would question if an employee/employer relation can ever be that close, or whether it is reasonable to make that kind of display to a studio audience and a national audience of strangers where nuances can be lost and misunderstanding can easily occur. And if I did not make it clear, the humor of the remark seems clearly based on singling out a person on the basis of skin color so that other, mostly white people, can laugh at them.

    Is Deen a raging racist prone to violence in the manner of the old time Klan or neo Nazis ? No, of course not, at least we have no evidence to suggest that.

    But does it seem likely that Deen is comfortable with a system if hierarchical relations in which Deen can assume permissions and familiarity that others might find uncomfortable, belittling or limiting.

    Over all it seems to me that Deen has little appreciation for the implications of her words or how her actions may be perceived by others.

    The fact that these insensitivities seem to occur repeatedly in regard to African Americans leads me to the conclusion that Deen has made limited progress in overcoming the racism prevalent in the community of her childhood.

    But I am a sucker for a story about change and uplift. So tell me Paula. Tell me about your epiphany. Tell me how it came to you that it has to stop, it has to stop here, it has to stop now. Tell me how you are going to use your influence, how you are going to appeal to your audience and tell them that change is possible and necessary. Tell me.. I am listening…

    1. It would be nice if you were specific and docummented your allegations about these perceived offenses with links. Another factor, is I have yet to hear about any of these people who were allegedly offended, voicing any offence.

      It would be nice if the white people here complaining how these poor black people have been put upon, stop assuming that these blacks are innept children who need white people to defend them. Specificially, has any black anywhere who was allegedly offended come forward to complain. If not than perhaps your paternalistic attitudes are, themselves, racist. But in a nice way meaning no harm of course.

  4. Is there a statute of limitations applicable as to Ms. Deen’s actions? Because a woman of her age, background, education (when was it she graduated H.S. in Georgia. 1966? 1967?), I’m not sure it’s appropriate to ruin her life over what she did 25 yrs ago.

    It’s funny how its perceived as impossible for White people to grow wiser, more tolerant, etc. Especially if, G-d forgive they are Republicans, Conservatives, or Christians. If they are liberals, actually even if they are mere Democrats, I’m not even sure they have to abjure their prior beliefs. (e.g., the late Sen. Byrd).

    1. Republicans forgive dirty old men, as long as they did not have sex with boys (unless they are priests) or are democrats. Democrats forgive anybody except financial people and republicans.

  5. Oh! Sorry for the incomplete answer:

    Your race, the context in which you use the word, and the social conventions of your ethnic group may influence my conclusion as to whether you are racist, rude, in casual conversation or something else entirely.

    1. The meaning of “I was shot by a nigger” changes because of my race, social conventions or ethnic group — why exactly?

      I should tell you that I have aspergers and do not abstractions well. Crap, I do not do them at all unless they are built on specifics. I understand “He moved like a cat” He is bad … not so much. So when you answer this, please try hard to use simple english and specific examples 🙂

  6. Like George Carlin, I’d say there are no bad words. Bad thoughts. Bad intentions. And wooooords. The inappropriateness of the word nigger is defined by usage, intent and context. In itself, it is just a word and has no power other than what people give it.

    1. Yea… But you may have noticed that I am the first person in this discussion to use that sacred word; one that is, apparently reserved exclusively for blacks. Speaking of which here is a riff by Chris Rock on how black people hate Niggers. Notice the lack of white people in the audience. I guess that if a white person hears the word nigger more than five times in a minute, live, then his head will explode.

  7. This should be interesting. I mean free speechj and all that. I have seen very few people coming to the defense of Paula deen because she said to her husband, in the privacy of her home, that a nigger put a gun to her head during a bank robbery. So, all you free speech advocates. What is your response to my use of the word nigger?

    Would it make a difference if I told you that I am black. Light black? Asian? Hispanic? White? Black passing as white? Jewish? Jewish and black? Suppose I said that I was shot by a nigger? That last sentence is actually true?

    As Jesus said.
    “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own?

    1. You have a right to use the word.

      We have a right to use your use of the word and other facts to evaluate your actions and perhaps conclude that you are racists.

      As individuals we have a right to make personal decisions regarding our association with those we consider racist.

      What am I missing? Is this a trick question?

      1. I am not sure who “We” are. But that is not how it is done. A woman, in the privacy of her home tells her husband something to the affect that “a nigger put a gun to her head” and she is condemmed. Condemmed, I strongly suspect by white managers who, if they are about her age, on more than one occasion called a black subordinate a nigger.

        So, this is just blacks and white liberals, and other various categories of intellectuall dishonest people jumping on a bandwagon to show how nobel and unracist that they are.

        It is similar to the same class of people getting all upset because Zimmerman was acquitted. If all these people really cared a crap about blacks, they would put just half of that effort into trying to figure out and prevent black men from killing other black men at a rate of about 20 per day, about eight times greater than the white homicide rate.

        Or perhaps the fact that they do not make this effort is because they all realize what the true value of the life of a black man is. NOt much, judging by the lack of effort put into protecting them.

  8. OK. I will entertain that question. I’m not getting into definitions, because I’d rather avoid the “Arabs in the Levant”, the so-called Palestinians, “are also Semitic peoples”.

    The point you are attempting to make has two principal defects. First, I absolutely agree it is theoretically possible to criticize Israeli policies without being antisemitic. But, my experience has been people who start ticking off a bunch of problems regarding Israel, never seem to disclose the (probably) greater problems with Palestinian policies and actions. I have invariably, and sadly found antisemitism at the core of the motivation for the criticism of Israel. After all, these same folks seem rather unconcerned with severe problems in, say, Mexico.

    Still on the first point, as a father I felt it was necessary to prove this anti semitic motivation to my kids while we were visiting N.Y.C. I told them to watch and listen. I then engaged several very nice young anti-Israel protesters near Washington Square. As I asked smiling, friendly questions, and allowed the young folks to clearly guess from my appearance that I was not Jewish. They became more and more comfortable, and it only took until the 5 or 6 minute mark for “Jewish domination” of the media and Hollywood, the control of the “Jewish Lobby”, etc., to be uttered by these very nice young people. Local students, in fact.

    I was thus able to discuss AND show my kids how at heart of every anti-Israel advocate, group, etc., is prejudice against the Jews.

    Second, your point is flawed in the light of any historical analysis. Towards the late 1930’s an international conference was held in Evian about the “Jewish Problem”. The underlying motivation was to see if other countries would step up and accept immigration of Germany’s unwanted Jews. Guess what- NO takers. (Actually I think Cuba was open to accepting a few hundred Jews).

    And no one, absolutely no one, believes there is any offer of reduction in land that would satisfy Arab interests in the area. In addition, the maintenance of the issue is too useful a diversion for the surrounding, corrupt Middle Eastern countries.

  9. Define “anti-semetic”.

    Nearly every time that label is hurled at me, it’s because I said something like, “Israel used white phosphorus on Gaza in 2009”, “the Israeli military fired cluster bombs on civilians in Lebanon in 2006”, or “the Israeli government itself added ‘go back to Auschwitz’ on the recording from the Rachel Corrie”.

    When people keep crying wolf, they shouldn’t act surprised when no one believes them anymore.

  10. Lottakatz:

    I prefer “bank shot” to “carom”, and I think you misunderstood my point.

    With the enormous influx of Muslims, I have no doubt a substantial amount of obscene, hate-ridden anti Muslim feeling & materials have come into being.

    My point, however, was that the particular “type” of antisemitism brought into France by (largely) Arab Muslims had pretty much disappeared from France about 250 years ago. It has been revived by the Arab Muslim immigrants. Antisemitism has never disappeared from France, and considering the amount of antisemitism the French have been able to periodically muster against a relatively small number of Jews (though, in fairness, balanced by events such as the the “Popular Front” gov’t in the second half of the 1930’s), I am sure a large number of Muslims can inspire the French to enormous anti-Muslim feelings.

    I find it interesting that while the anti-assimilation stance of Muslims inspires severe hatred & prejudice, the assiduous attempt of French Jews to assimilate didn’t dent traditional French anti-Jewish feelings all that much.

  11. Commercial enterprises are increasingly treating the Bill of Rights (with the exception of the Second Amendment, of course) as a nice list of suggestions.

    And Gene H. is correct.

  12. Gwen,

    Incitement can be a crime depending upon the circumstance and the jurisdiction and may not require private suit be filed, instead falling to the duty of the public prosecutors. Just because a legal remedy may be difficult to prosecute – publicly or privately – doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist nor is it sufficient grounds to terminate or restrict a fundamental right like political free speech. What you’d rather is throwing the baby out with the bath water. Was the speech incitement? That’s no more your call to make than it is mine or Twitter’s. You can allege it’s incitement all you like, but that’s for the courts to decide if you believe in the Rule of Law. If it is found the speech is prime facie incitement and subject to criminal prosecution then and only then should anonymity be breached in instances of political free speech and only by court order. But limiting political free speech simply because you don’t like it censorship; political correctness when done (attempted) by the individual and oppression of dissent when done by the state. I hate Nazis for example, but I will defend their right to have their say regardless of how odious I find their beliefs. Free speech is a messy thing, but the good far outweighs the bad and is well worth the cost of some being disgusted and offended. The unwritten corollary for free speech is that at some time you are pretty much guaranteed to be disgusted and/or offended.

  13. Warspite: “Unfortunately, it has arisen as Muslims have flooded into France. Whatever good, bad or otherwise things one has to say about Arab, Persian & Pakistani Muslim cultures (Sunni or Shiite), the cultures include a type of antisemitism that, for the most part, died out in Western Europe several centuries ago. This seems to be particularly true of Arab Muslims.”

    Blaming the rise of virulent anti-semitism on the muslims in France? LOL, just Google this and read at your leisure:

    french anti-muslim groups

    Nice carom shot against the muslims but it doesn’t pass the smell test- the French, or at least enough of hem to make news, hate muslims too.

  14. bfm,

    In this country (and on this blog), anonymous political free speech is a protected right. To address Gwen Moore’s comment, there are exceptions to free speech: defamation, incitement and threats/fighting words. All of which have legal remedies and, through subpoena power, may seek to breach the right of anonymity. However, it is not the place of a corporation to decide when and how to breach anonymity. That’s a matter for the courts. Saying “the only good Jew is a dead Jew” while hiding behind anonymity may be odious and it may be cowardly but it is not illegal. Saying “you lot should go kill some Jews and soon, here’s where some live” is not protected in the slightest (it’s incitement). Having an adverse or unpopular political opinion is at the heart of dissent and political free speech. It needs to be protected even if you find what the speaker is saying to be vile so long as it isn’t tortious or criminal in itself.

    1. To Gene H.

      The are legal remedies for defamation, etc., however it is not always possible or practical to litigate. Sometimes it is even impossible to get legal authorities to get involved. The racism displayed on Twitter was intended to incite others. I would rather see the author take the responsibility of pleading their case so he/she can get direct responses from others.

  15. ” To use these “blogs” annonymously isn’t free speech, it is cowardice.”

    Maybe so. But unless you reason by authority, who made a statement should not affect your view of the validity of the statement. Who made a statement does not change the truth of the statement.

    The real issue is the content of the message, not who said it.

    Besides, if an anonymous statement is a real legal problem, such as a threat or a slander, it is easy enough for law enforcement to trace and identify who made the statement.

    Let them make their anonymous statements. It should not affect the discussion at all.

    And anonymous statements may offer some small protection for those who speak truth to power. We could certainly use more of that.

  16. I support Twitter’s action! Having the freedom to express oneself is our right. Doing it at the expense of others is another matter. If some one is racist, their opinion has meaning to me and I want to hear it … From them. To use these “blogs” annonymously isn’t free speech, it is cowardice. If some one has something to say, say it … And own up to it.

  17. “You can combat hate speech though by using the disinfectant of sunshine combined with reason, logic and evidence to stop their poisonous memes from spreading”

    Right on! The proper answer to bad speech is more speech.

    Bad speech is like a biological poison. We cannot make ourselves safe from it by locking it away. Even if we try to repress bad speech it will still take place in the dark recesses of society. In those dark corners the haters have free reign. There will be no reasonable person to engage, contend and expose their illogical and fallacious arguments.

    Bad speech can only grow stronger when there is no reasonable person there to dispute the lies, expose the prejudice, oppose the hatred. Under those conditions the poison of hate speech does not dissipate. It grows more dangerous.

    It is only by bringing bad speech in the open and exposing it to the light of reason that we have any hope of defeating it.

    We may never stop bad speech completely. But we may reduce its influence. The best chance we have to disarm bad speech is expose it to public scrutiny, engage with it, and expose it’s lies with logic and fact.

  18. People keep forgetting that Twitter and facebook and blogs etc are Public places. Before I quit smoking I was made conscious of the ills of same by reading the scary warning on the side of the very pretty packages…..why are similiar warnings not required to be posted by the sites warning people that they may ultimately have their identities revealed and to be cautious in their speech? Words are significantly more dangerous than cigarettes….

  19. This is a bit more complicated than it seems. And, that’s even setting aside mistakes made by folks in equating “Free Speech” under the First Amendment, with similar, but not necessarily identical concepts elsewhere.

    For reasons beyond discussion in this Blog, antisemitism has existed in France for at least 1000 years. For every Napoleon, who really didn’t care about religion all that much, there was, well, about every one else! Even the military officer in the Intelligence Division who played a key role in gaining justice in the Dreyfus Affair, Georges Picquart, was antisemitic. Although hindered, threatened, sent to N. Africa, accused of being a forger and courtmartialed, his sense of duty overrode his personal feelings about Jews.

    The French helped the Germans round up Jews in unoccupied France, and maintained a streak of antisemitism through the time I had the most direct exposure (1980’s) with day to day France. That’s just the way it is in Europe, with a few exceptions. However, I can attest to the fact the French antisemitism bubbling up quite publicly in the past 10-15 yrs. is quite different than 99% of France’s “traditional” antisemitism during the past 200+ years.

    This “new” antisemitism is not really about money, control of the world, etc., it is a throwback to the antisemitism of pre-Enlightenment France. A “blood based” antisemitism, if you will. Kidnapping non-Jewish children and using their blood to make matzoh sort of stuff. And where has it come from? Unfortunately, it has arisen as Muslims have flooded into France. Whatever good, bad or otherwise things one has to say about Arab, Persian & Pakistani Muslim cultures (Sunni or Shiite), the cultures include a type of antisemitism that, for the most part, died out in Western Europe several centuries ago. This seems to be particularly true of Arab Muslims.

    While its true Nazi Germany utilized this type of antisemitism, it was done on a sophisticated, “marketing” type of basis. That is, if this was what worked in a given area, town, or class of persons, it was used. If Jewish domination of department stores worked, that was used. And so on. And, of course, in so many ways Nazi ideas about Jews akin to a bacteria or virus to be eradicated, if not originating w/the NSDAP, were taken to unbelievable extremes.

    Europe is not the U.S. There are countries, like the Netherlands, where the population of Muslims has grown to a size where Western values, freedom of speech & religion, equality of women, are truly being threatened. And the lessons from the incident regarding the political cartoons in Denmark should not be forgot. I realise Twitter providing names is nothing to be sneezed at, but I would withhold judgment until the names are made more public.

  20. No.

    Free speech is responsible speech, people who believe in free speech own their words whether posting to Twits or opining on blogs and in other public forums. Antagonistic speech of an anonymous persuasion is no better than a lie and is no different than yelling fire in a crowded building.

    That said, we haven’t enjoyed true freedom of speech in the USA for a long time….we have a strange twisted version of it where truth tellers are tortured and chased down for process murdering and ‘wordsmiths’ profit by the twisting and isolated abbreviations of it.

    I miss Free Speech.

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