Twitter sues Germany over refusal to remove anti-Semitic content – ​​

Twitter is currently facing legal action in Germany for refusing to remove anti-Semitic content, in a case that could have wider implications for users’ ability to enforce the platforms terms and conditions. .

The lawsuit, filed in a Berlin court on Wednesday (January 25), was brought by digital rights organization HateAid and the European Union of Jewish Students (EUJS) and relates to six pieces of content reported on Twitter for their anti -Semitic character.

Both organizations believe that the platform’s refusal to remove content, which in some cases includes the trivialization or denial of the Holocaust (Shoah), is a violation of its rules and policies.

The case must determine if this represents a breach of contract between the platform and its users and if the latter have the right to take legal action to obtain the application of the law, even if they are not personally affected by infringing content.

“We put control of public speech on the internet in the hands of corporations and private investors. Twitter assures that it will not tolerate violence on its platform. Users should count on it”said Josephine Ballon, HateAid’s chief legal officer.

“But in practice, we found that the opposite happens: illegal content is, at best, removed in an arbitrary and non-transparent manner. This must change eventually. Twitter should offer us a communication platform where we can navigate freely and without fear of hate and aggression. »

The case hinges on six pieces of content that HateAid and the EUJS say include elements of sedition under German law as well as illegal and anti-Semitic language. This content was flagged on the platform but not removed, as Twitter flatly refused to remove a comment related to Holocaust denial.

According to the lawsuit, the rejection violates Twitter’s hateful and abusive policies, which require the platform to “combat abuse motivated by hatred, prejudice or intolerance” and ban content that “deny massacres or other events that caused many victims” like the Holocaust.

The legal remedy is based on the argument that by accepting these rules when creating an account on the platform, users enter into a contract with Twitter, which in turn agrees to apply its own terms and conditions . The company also broke that contract by failing to remove content that violated those rules, HateAid and EUJS said.

The potential implications of the case, however, are broader than these specific instances of content not being removed. The purpose of the lawsuit is in part to clarify whether platforms have a legal obligation to enforce these terms and, if so, whether users have the right to take legal action to enforce them when they don’t. made.

This may mean that users can use the courts to press for the removal of infringing content, even if it does not directly concern them.

A positive verdict would mark a break with the current situation in Germany, where a complaint must be registered with the Federal Office of Justice, which can impose a fine if there is evidence of systemic failure of the platform.

No such cases have been seen since the implementation of the country’s content moderation law in 2018: the Network Law Enforcement Act (NetzDG).

EURACTIV sought to contact Twitter for a response, but could not find any contact details at press time. Messages sent to the email addresses of three Twitter employees were unsuccessful.

Content moderation and the treatment of hateful or hateful content on social media have long been controversial topics and areas of intense discussion within tech companies and among digital policy makers.

It turns out that instances of hate speech on Twitter increased during the turbulent period following Elon Musk’s takeover of the platform in 2022. During this time, most of the platform’s staff, many worked on content moderation and teams such as AI Human Rights and Ethics, have been removed.

A 2021 study by the Center for Countering Digital Hate found that social media companies failed to act on 84% of anti-Jewish content and 80% of posts denying or downplaying the Holocaust. ‘Holocaust.

The research showed that Twitter acted on only 11% of reported anti-Semitic posts, the second-to-lowest rate among the major platforms, behind only Facebook (10.9%).

“By allowing the distribution of hateful content, the company is not protecting its users, and especially young people of the Jewish faith. However, what starts online does not end online. In doing so, Twitter is cultivating the real hatred and violence and ignores our democratic values”said Avital Grinberg, president of EUJS.

[Édité par Anne-Sophie Gayet]

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