Twitter is facing a $50 million criminal lawsuit as the result of the ongoing battle over whether or not the social media company should be forced to hand over to French authorities the personal information of users responsible for anti-semitic tweets late last year.
The company had been ordered by a French court to provide the requested data back in January, following legal action from the Union of Jewish Students (UEJF), which sought the personal information of those responsible for a number of offensive tweets that contained hashtags like #AGoodJew and #ADeadJew. The UEJF aims to prosecute those individuals under existing French anti-hate speech laws.
At the time, Twitter was given two weeks to comply with the request for the data, with a €1,000 ($1337.70 USD) fine for every day that it did not comply after those two weeks. The company responded that it would review the French court’s decision, but failed to respond until last week, when it filed an appeal against the January ruling.
As a result of Twitter’s inaction, the company has now been named in a criminal lawsuit, with CEO Dick Costolo brought up to the spotlight. In addition to UEJF, the lawsuit is also being brought on by the anti-racism organization J’Accuse/International Action for Justice. The two groups are seeking €38 million ($50 million USD) from Twitter and Costolo, a figure they plan to donate to the Memorial de la Shoah, a French museum that commemorates the history of French Jews during the World War II.
Stéphane Lilti, the lawyer acting on behalf of the UEJF and J’Accuse, told local news outlet France 24 that the groups “are upping the stakes” because Twitter seems to have completely disregarded French laws. “The 38 million euros cited… is designed to make them wake up to the fact that protecting the authors of racist tweets is not acceptable in France.”
He continued, “We are not against Twitter… This action is purely aimed at people who write racist comments online. But if we are going to stop this kind of online behavior in France, multinationals like Twitter have to abide by French law, and not hide behind the US First Amendment that guarantees freedom of expression.”
Twitter spokesman Jim Prosser responded in a statement to the Huffington Post, saying that his company has “been in continual discussions with UEJF. As this new filing shows, they are sadly more interested in grandstanding than taking the proper international legal path for this data.”
Prosser noted that although Twitter filed its appeal last week, it “would have filed it sooner if not for UEJF’s intentional delay in processing the court’s decision.”