French spike in Twitter suppression

In the last six months of 2013, France moved into first place in the world in number of requests to Twitter to remove tweets. French authorities (category: government agency, police, other) asked Twitter to suppress or remove 306 tweets, or 87% of the total 353 requests it received from July to December 2013.

You can read the report here: https://transparency.twitter.com/removal-requests/2013/jul-dec.

Twitter noted that the number of requests had increased fivefold, as the chart on the page shows, a spike that is all on France. The other top national suppressors were Russia, United Kingdom, India and the United States, but their number of requests ranged from 14 (Russia) to 6 (United States).

What does it mean? Are French tweeters significantly more trash-mouthed and libelous than the rest of the world? Not necessarily. As noted in a previous post, French law prohibits language inciting hatred or violence toward an individual or group due to their race, ethnicity, origin, nationality or religion. I suppose the spike in requests for Twitter suppression represents the government taking action against remarks it finds fit that definition. I also imagine that it uses that definition like an accordion playing La Vie en Rose.

This spike in suppression came up in a class discussion in the wake of the Turkish prime minister trying to block Twitter entirely. France’s tactics are more subtle, but the end result is that race, culture, ethnicity and immigration have become taboo subjects for discussion, except from the far right. Young people are particularly vulnerable to its Faustian offer of simplistic solutions to complex situations. If students have not argued the social construct of race, or considered how cultural blends are constantly renewed through immigration, they are ill-equipped to put neo-fascist ideas in any sort of historic or social context. How then does the state expect them to understand and flourish in the diverse society that is France today?

Debate, discussion and argument are the foundations of a healthy society. Tweet on!

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