Twitter told to reveal details of racist users

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Image caption In October 2012, the social networking site was awash with racist tweets

Twitter will have to reveal the names of France-based users posting anti-Semitic messages, after a Paris court refused to consider the firm's appeal.

In January, the Paris High Court told the firm to reveal the data directly to France's Union of Jewish Students (UEJF) and four others, if requested.

The groups filed a complaint following several instances of racist tweets.

Twitter blocked the posts in France, but appealed against the decision to hand over user IDs.

The micro-blogging service still has not revealed any of the requested identities, and is now thinking of appealing again, said the firm's spokeswoman.

"We are disappointed that the court has decided not to hear our appeal. We are considering our options, including resubmitting the appeal," she said.

On Wednesday, a Paris appeals court ruled that the firm had not managed to present convincing enough evidence for withholding users' identities.

Twitter also failed to set up an "easily accessible and visible" way for people to notify the site's management team of any content deemed to constitute an "apology for crimes against humanity and incitement to racial hatred".

The firm was ordered by the Paris high court to create such a system at the time of the initial ruling.

$50m lawsuit

The case goes back to October 2012, when UEJF argued that numerous tweets with the hashtag #unbonjuif (#agoodjew) had breached French law prohibiting incitement to racial hatred. The group asked Twitter to delete the posts.

The company complied, making the posts invisible to French users. Twitter later pointed out to the BBC that it did not monitor content but reviewed reports about messages that might be illegal.

It is possible for the authorities to request personal details of a particular Twitter user, but to do so, the demand has to undergo a certain process called MLAT - a mutual legal assistance treaty - in place between France and the US.

But UEJF and four other human rights groups wanted to bypass this procedure, and make Twitter reveal the users' data directly to them, without going via MLAT.

After filing its initial lawsuit, UEJF decided to take the case even further - and in March, the group went to court once again, this time with a $50m lawsuit against the micro-blogging site.

The organisation argued that Twitter had not respected the time frame imposed by the court to give up the requested names or file an appeal within 15 days from the date of the first ruling.

The micro-blogging site filed its appeal later in March.

'Playing with the law'

UEJF's president Jonathan Hayoun welcomed the latest turn of events, adding that Twitter should not be "playing with the French legal system".

"Twitter has not made any progress in regards to respecting our country's laws.

"The first step towards making any kind of progress could be finally listening to the court's decision, and making sure that its social network is not a lawless place."

Some Twitter users praised the court's decision, writing messages such as "Well done #UEJF".

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