Twitter announced last Friday that it will cooperate with the demands of the French Government, namely to hand over data concerning individuals and twitter accounts that tweeted #unbonjuif (“a good jew”) and #unjuifmort (“a dead jew”) back in October 2012. This comes have a 6 month process in which Twitter was pushed to make direct access available to specific government agencies & associations in charge of preventing hate speech, which would permit them to signal hate speech in a priority fashion.
When the trending hashtags first made headlines, we explained that France’s views concerning free speech differ from that of the United States, in that you are not legally allowed to spread hate speech. While, in the US, this would be seen as censorship, France’s doesn’t deal with the “If we let them do X, it’s only a matter of time until Y” – as a reminder, this logic has been used in recent years to prevent 1) Gay marriage (now legal in France) and 2) The ownership of high-powered assault rifles without making that ownership public knowledge. Interesting, eh?
That being said, if Twitter lets itself be customized locally for each government, will this bread a more localized internet that the gTLDs once suggested. Just as McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, and baguettes have a unique taste in each country, if I have a different composition of web pages that make up my internet, will the internet cease to be a global connector, by virtue of its fragmented entities? This, whether inadvertent or not, is the goal of many national governments, who feel their cultural and politic values encroached upon by global internet companies based in the US, who default to US value by nature of their location. By customizing Twitter, the French government is making sure that, online or offline, France’s laws, values, and securities are upheld for its citizens.
The alternative to imposing themselves on the Twitters and Googles of the world, governments argue, are dark corners of the internet, like PirateBay.[whatever country they’re allowed to operate in this week], Silk Road, and a BitCoin-run universe.
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