[JURIST] A criminal court in Paris convicted three people of hate crimes on Tuesday for tweeting homophobic messages on the social media site Twitter. The offenders received fines between 300 and 500 euros for inciting anti-gay sentiments by creating hashtags with messages such as “let’s burn the gays,” and “the gays must die.” This is the first time [Independent report] a French court has convicted a Twitter user for discriminatory speech based on sexual orientation, and a representative of the Comite IDAHO France [advocacy website, in French], an organization committed to combating homophobia, is calling the case a “historic victory.” Twitter has yet to comment on the case, but has shown support [Numerama report, in French] for the French initiative to end hate speech by removing hashtags with homophobic key words from the trending page and by providing user information to French officials.
The right of the French government to censor discriminatory speech on the internet [JURIST op-ed] has been widely debated. Last year a French court ordered Twitter to allow for the identification of authors responsible for anti-Semitic messages, as well as to establish a mechanism to alert authorities of illegal hate messages. The French Justice Ministry [official website, in French] has called on [AP report] prosecutors to crack down on hate speech, anti-Semitism and support of terrorism under the country’s strong laws against anti-Semitism and racism.