Last week, a French court handed down a ruling requiring Twitter to disclose personal data of account holders tweeting hate speech. The company has 15 days to comply or risk fines of €1,000 (about US$1,300) a day until it does. It’s the latest in a series of clashes between social media businesses based in the US, where freedom of speech is prized, and foreign governments, where free-speech laws, if they exist, aren’t quite as liberal. In France’s case, says writer Olga Khazan, the challenge is “[suppressing] racist sentiments in a public that’s both increasingly diverse and increasingly prejudiced.”
What’s the Big Idea?
Recent surveys of French citizens have revealed an increase in both anti-Semitic and Islamophobic beliefs, and attacks on Jewish synagogues and religious centers in particular are among the problems spurring the government to crack down on online media. Khazan says that French authorities may be able to go up against Twitter in an American court: “How these cases unfold will say a lot, not just about governments’ commitments to fight hate speech online, but also about American companies’ willingness to alter their own service terms in the hopes of appeasing foreign governments.”
"The very fact that enough people are willing to somehow believe that Earth is 6,000 years old," Lawrence Krauss argues, "means we have to do a better job of teaching physics and biology, not a worse job."