Twitter , which has assiduously branded itself as an advocate of free speech, has agreed to identify several users who posted anti-Semitic comments on its service, and whom French authorities are seeking to prosecute for violating that country’s anti-hate laws.
The case shows how challenging it is for Silicon Valley companies to champion the free speech rights of users while complying with the laws of countries where they do business. It also highlights Silicon Valley’s Europe problem: the continent represents a large and lucrative market, but its lawmakers, regulators and courts have hounded the industry in recent months on issues as varied as privacy and antitrust law.
For months, Twitter had fought a court order obtained by a private French citizens’ group demanding that the company turn over the user information. But on Friday, the company said it had handed over the information to a prosecutor in Paris, in response to a law enforcement request. By turning over the information, Twitter said, it had ended a lawsuit related to the court order brought by the private group.
In a statement Friday, the company said, “In response to a valid legal request, Twitter has provided the prosecutor of Paris, Presse et Libertés Publiques section of the Paris Tribunal de Grande Instance, with data that may enable the identification of certain users that the vice-prosecutor believes have violated French law.” The statement took pains to note that Twitter was providing the information to law enforcement through a legal request, not to the private group.