Twitter is a facing landmark legal challenge after being accused of failing to remove hate-filled antisemitic tweets that had been reported by users of the social media platform.
The Elon Musk-owned company was alerted to six antisemitic and racist tweets in January this year by the European Union of Jewish Students (EUJS) and researchers at HateAid, a German organisation that campaigns for human rights in the digital space.
Even though the tweets appeared to contravene Twitter’s own moderation policy, and included explicit examples of Holocaust denial, they were not removed from the platform.
Another post read “blacks should be gassed and sent with space x to Mars”, while a further tweet compared Covid vaccination programmes to mass extermination in Nazi death camps.
Twitter has received notice of the legal action and has since acted to block some of the offending tweets.
But HateAid and the EUJS say two of the accounts they reported have subsequently gone on to post numerous other antisemitic posts.
The account @Royston1983 is accused of posting tweets alleging predatory Jewish or Zionist plots and supposed control of the media, schools and banks.
It is now claimed that Twitter ruled that three of the tweets did not violate its guidelines and had failed to respond to the other reports.
HateAid and the EUJS applied earlier this year to a Berlin court to have the tweets deleted, arguing the tweets broke German law and that Twitter had failed to meet contractual obligations to provide a secure and safe environment for its users.
Twitter has received notice of the legal action and has since acted to block some of the offending tweets.Avital Grinberg of the EUJS, who reported some of the tweets, said the decision to take legal action had been taken out of “despair, disappointment and anger”.
“All our efforts and advocacy have led nowhere and Twitter has become a space where antisemitism and Holocaust denial is just growing and growing. This is so much bigger than us, so we needed the biggest and strongest tool that democracy has to offer and that is the law,” Grinberg said.
Twitter has long faced accusations of failing to act against online hate in recent years but since Musk took over in October the situation appears to have worsened.
Josephine Ballon, the head of legal at HateAid, said the aim of the legal action was to force Twitter to take more responsibility for content on the site.“Freedom of expression does not just mean the absence of censorship but ensuring that Twitter is a safe space for users who can be free of fear of being attacked or receiving death threats or holocaust denial.
“If you are a Jewish person on Twitter then the sad reality is that it is neither secure nor safe for you.
“We are not demanding anything unreasonable … Just that their moderation is good enough to take down this very dangerous content. This would signal to their users that Twitter care about keeping them safe.”
Twitter has previously insisted it is “committed to combating abuse motivated by hatred, prejudice or intolerance, particularly abuse that seeks to silence the voices of those who have been historically marginalised”.
It also said that “behaviour that targets individuals or groups with abuse based on their perceived membership in a protected category” is prohibited.
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