Hate online, Twitter in the dock
Is Twitter above French law? And why does the social network put so much malice into identifying people who spread hateful messages? These were the questions on Tuesday, January 31 in the Paris court of three victims of terrorism. Two of them were present this afternoon at the hearing.
First is Aurélia Gilbert who on November 13, 2015 was inside the Bataclan. Sitting next to him, Georges Salines (1) whose daughter Lola was killed in the concert hall. The third plaintiff is former journalist Nicolas Hénin, who was held hostage in Syria by the Islamic State group from June 2013 to April 2014.
Quickly classify a file
The three spoke in favor of repatriating to France the children of jihadists imprisoned in camps in Syria. It was in 2019 for Nicolas Hénin and in the summer of 2020 for Aurélia Gilbert and Georges Salines. This caused them many messages of insults or threats on Twitter. The three of them filed a complaint, but justice quickly closed the case in the face of Twitter’s lack of response to requests to disclose the identity elements of the authors of malicious tweets. Because of this, the three filed a complaint against the social network.
At the helm, Aurélia Gilbert and then Georges Salines were eager to explain their position in favor of the return of the children of jihadists. “The goal is to get out of the pattern that wants all victims of terrorism to be against this repatriation”, said the first. “And challenge the idea that victims are driven only by a desire for revenge”, refers to the second. Then it is the same impotence that they described in the face of “surge” of hatred that followed. “Too bad they forgot it”, dared a surfer, talking about Aurélia Gilbert who survived the Bataclan bullets. Georges Salines received a message saying that he “ you must kill all the stupid fellows, or better yet, by throwing them off the bridge”.
But the “rockers” for Aurélia Gilbert what happened when her Twitter account was hacked. “Someone got into my inbox and took my account. This person deleted my post about sending children home from Syria and posted another post revealing my personal phone number and saying I’m a traitor to my homeland,” the complainant recounted, saying he had “scared heart” facing a “such interference” in his private life.
“surprised” through Twitter’s non-cooperation with justice, Aurélia Gilbert saw a “some form of impunity” of social networks. This strengthens the authors of these messages, added his lawyer, Me Laura Ben Kemoun. ” They’re like, ‘I don’t care, they’ll never find me’ and Twitter supports them.” said the also defending Nicolas Hénin. In the same line, Me Antoine Vey, defender of Georges Salines, pointed out the variable geometry position of Twitter. “They respond favorably when it comes to child pornography. For threats, it depends and for insults, never. »
“A bad test we’re doing on Twitter”
The prosecutor also lamented the lack of cooperation from American society. In order to force him to respond, he said, the investigative service should not make simple requests, but a request for international assistance. “Which is very time consuming”, recognized the representative of the Public Prosecutor’s Office.
“This is a bad test we’re doing on Twitter”, responded Me Karim Beylouni, lawyer of Twitter, confirming that the company responds to requests from justice as long as they are sent through the right channel. This was not the case here, he said, as requisitions were not sent to Twitter Ireland, the only entity authorized to process European user accounts.
The debate then becomes very legalistic. A necessity “in a legal precinct”, argues Me Beylouni, well aware however that these tests are a platform, and it is also the image of the company that must be defended. “We have to leave the posture of saying that Twitter will become an American giant that is above the law in France. It is false and caricatural”, assured Me Beylouni, adding that the company is participating in “a working group (of the Ministry of Interior) to fight online crimes”. Final clarification: the threatening tweet against Georges Salines is “removed in less than twenty-four hours”. Under the advisory, the court’s decision will be issued on March 27.