Twitter has been engulfed in a wave of French anti-Semitic posts using the hashtag #unbonjuif, meaning “a good Jew” in French.
The tweets were condemned by French anti-racist and Jewish organizations on Monday.
In a statement, the Anti-Defamation League said the social networking service, founded in 206 with an estimated 500 million current users,“lags far behind other established social media platforms” in tackling hate speech and banning those who use it.
“Twitter is fast becoming the Internet’s distribution platform of choice for bigots who use it to get their messages of hate out in 140 characters or less,” said Abraham Foxman, ADL’s National Director.
Stephane Lilti, an attorney for the Union of French Jewish Students said that Twitter has agreed to remove tweets that her group has flagged as anti-Semitic, according to the French newspaper Le Nouvel Observateur.
She said Twitter’s decision was “an important victory” for the fight against anti-Semitism. Earlier this week, her organization threatened to sue Twitter if it did not remove anti-Semitic messages.
Twitter generally does not ban users from using hate speech unless it violates the company’s terms of service, which prohibit illegal activity, disclosing private information belonging to others violating copyrights or patents or misusing Twitter’s badges.
Twitter on Oct. 17 announced that it was blocking a right-wing German group’s Twitter feed, in Germany only, after the Hanover police told Twitter that the group was under investigation of forming an illegal organization.
Foxman said Twitter’s terms of service lag behind rivals in blocking or removing offensive content, relying only on the legal definition of hate speech as a threshold for intervention.
In a phone interview, a Twitter spokesman, who declined to be identified, told The Jewish Week the company was committed to open discussion on all topics.
“Our first guiding principle, our Rock of Gibraltar is free speech,” said the spokesman. “We have made a decision to defend free speech rights in a very broad context and that means making tough choices.”
Asked what would happen to a user that is found to tweet hateful epithets, the spokesman said “The same thing that would happen in the real world. People would react, but the person wouldn’t be jailed and there would be no legal ramifications.”
The spokesman, however, disputed the statement in the ADL’s press release that Twitter does not have a means for users to report the conduct of others. A section called Report Abuse notes that people are allowed to say things others may find inflammatory, but still contains a mechanism for reporting such behavior.
Facebook’s terms of service explicitly prohibit hate speech and users can report status updates they consider to be hateful.
Typical tweets with the “good Jew” hashtag included phrases such as “A good Jew can pump up your tyre with his nose,” “A good Jew wears a Gucci kippa” or “A good Jew is a dead Jew,” reported Yediot Ahronot.
Twitter should “take the appropriate measures” to end the “flood of anti-Semitism,” the anti-racist group MRAP said in a statement.
Facebook removed pages for Hezbollah, its affiliated Al-Manar television station and its leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah.
It is the second time that the social networking site has removed pages for the Lebanon-based Hezbollah; the first time was in August, but the group created new pages.
The Middle East Media Research Institute had reported on the original and new pages.