Twitter, Facebook and YouTube in Court to Remove Racist Content

France court
© Thomas Samson, AFP | France’s Constitutional Council

The Jewish Students Union in France, a group which is also the largest anti-racism group in the country, has joined forces with a gay rights movement as they attempt to sue three popular social media networks. The two groups are suing the social media networks for failure to censor and remove racist, anti-semitic and homophobic comments.

The Union of Jewish Students, SOS Racisme, and SOS Homophobie released a joint statement which stated their intentions to sue Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. This means that three of the biggest firms in Silicon Valley are affected.

The groups claim that they managed to find about 586 claims of racism and racist content, antisemitism and homophobe content on the networks. They also claim they found comments which sought to deny that the Holocaust happened or comments that justified the acts of terrorism in the world and criminal activities. The three groups carried out a social media survey which started on March 31 and ended on May 10.

France laws prohibit denying the Holocaust and justification of terrorism and people get sentences for them. Racism, antisemitism and/or homophobic messages are also considered to be illegal in the country.

The groups claim that the response of the three social media networks to try and remove the content is poor. They highlight the fact that only four percent of hate content was removed from Twitter, YouTube saw the removal of just seven percent, with Facebook trying at least more to remove content since they removed thirty-four percent.

Dominique Sopo, chairman of the SOS Racisme, said that the three social networks did a better job when it came to nudity than when it came to hating speech and incitement against groups of people. Bare breasts are quickly censored he said.

French laws for the digital services is the one the three groups are using to sue the social networks. The law states that social media network providers should remove and suppress all obvious illegal content within a reasonable time and then after should give notice to the public prosecutors.

Sacha Reingewirtz, Head of the Jewish Students Union said that because most social media networks did not disclose how they functioned, moderating them was difficult for law enforcement forces. This results in some serious prevention of progress in the work to reduce anti-semitic and racist content.

The survey that three groups conducted showed that of the 205 messages that were flagged to Twitter administration unit, they only removed eight of the content, YouTube had 225 flagged items, and the network removed 16. Facebook, which did a better job, removed 53 of the 156 flagged messages. Therefore, the group put a partly contestable suit for Facebook since the company has a strict no pornography rule.