The problem with giving into the requests of the government is that, well, you have to follow through. After an altercation with a few advocacy groups and the French government over some anti-Semitic trending hashtags earlier this year, Twitter promised to provide a streamlined access for users ( & the government) to signal inappropriate content. They also suggested that they would be turning over account information of users who use hate speech on the social network so that the French government can pursue those users for violating France’s free speech laws.
As a quick reminder, France’s free speech laws, unlike those of the US, do not permit hate speech, including racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, sexist, or otherwise offensive comments.
Now Twitter’s in trouble this week after a gay rights advocacy group IDAHO France said it will seek justice in court from Twitter for, as the group claims, ‘allowing the hashtag to prosper and trend” [source: Numerama]. This lines up pretty well with what the French government said Twitter would get in trouble over if it did not affect change in the way it allows advocacy groups & the government to signal & remove hate speech from the social network.
Twitter got into similar trouble in the UK this past month after feminist activist Caroline Criado-Perez was threatened with rape by ‘trolls’ after she won her case to get a woman, renowned British author Jane Austen, placed on the back of British currency, making the former trend of having only men’s faces appear. Twitter is still fighting the PR nightmare over in the UK, and will have to spread its resources across the channel to calm concerns inside the Hexagon.
I’m sure that, when Twiter planned out its European & International expansion, it didn’t foresee this. After all, predecessors like Facebook & Google have been operating in Europe for years, and, while they’ve combated concerns of privacy & tax evasion, they’ve never had to deal with the differing free speech laws in each country. Twitter, it seems, has hit a wall with its overly public follow-system, trends, hashtags, and mentions, which allow virtually anyone to contact & harass virtually anyone.
Hopefully Twitter will take some of its wasted #Music development resources and move them over to getting the aforementioned hate speech monitoring tools onboard, because, frankly, I’m not sure that Twitter can handle this much bad press as it looks to bring on board advertisers and prepare for an eventual IPO.