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Twitter hit with $50M suit over anti-Semitic tweeter data

In the ongoing legal conflict between the social network and the Union of Jewish French Students, a new court case erupts.

Illustration by James Martin/CNET

The Union of Jewish French Students, UEJF, has doubled down in its battle with Twitter and said it filed a $50 million lawsuit against the social network yesterday.

The cause of the suit? User data for anti-Semitic tweets.

The fracas goes back to October when Twitter was awash in anti-Semitic French-language tweets tied to the hashtag "#unbonjuif" ("a good Jew"). This prompted the student union and other anti-racism groups to ask Twitter to remove both the tweets and the hashtag. The social network complied by deleting the tweets in France that it deemed racist.

While deleting the tweets was part of UEJF's goal, it also became curious about the users who were sending the anti-Semitic messages. So, UEJF sued Twitter in a civil case in November to get the identities of those users in France so they could then prosecute them under the country's anti-hate speech laws. In January a French court ruled that the social network had to comply.

At the time, Twitter said, "we are currently reviewing the court's decision." The court told the social network that it had 15 days to give up the names or file an appeal, but UEJF said the social network didn't follow the court's rules.

"Twitter is playing the indifference card and does not respect the ruling," UEJF President Jonathan Hayoun said, according to the Global News Service of the Jewish People. "They have resolved to protect the anonymity of the authors of these tweets and have made themselves accomplices to racists and anti-Semites."

The new lawsuit is regarding Twitter not filing in the certain time frame. According to the Global News Service of the Jewish People, it is a criminal suit that was filed with a Paris correctional tribunal. The UEJF has said that if it wins the suit, it will use the damages award to preserve the memory of the Holocaust.

For its part, Twitter said that it has followed the rules and had no intention to delay in its filing.

"We've been in continual discussions with UEJF," a Twitter spokesperson told CNET. "As yesterday's new filing shows, they are sadly more interested in grandstanding than taking the proper international legal path for this data. We are filing our appeal today, and would have filed it sooner if not for UEJF's intentional delay in processing the court's decision."

CNET contacted UEJF for more information. We'll update the story when we hear back.