Anti-Semitism is, according to the Webster definition, the “hostility toward a discrimination against Jews as a religious or racial group.” In France, anti-Semitism is rooted in Medieval Judeophobia, which we must however differentiate from today’s sentiments. Judeophobia and anti-Semitism are often expressed as synonyms. Even though Judeophobia is described by many as the ancestor of anti-Semitism, these two notions are dissimilar as they refer to different feelings. Both terms refer to the hatred of the Jewish people. However, it was anti-Semitism pushed to its extremes which opened the road towards the Final Solution.The anti-Semitic movement which developed during the late 19th century in France acquired new characteristics: a political dimension and a pseudo-scientific dimension. You would think that after France’s Vichy past, anti-Semitism would have completely been erased from French mentalities. However, the 2002 rise of the French far-right xenophobic and anti-Semitic movement (le Front National) and more recently a wave of anti-Semitic attacks and sentiments, proves us wrong. In March 2012, a French Islamist shot Jewish civilians including children in Toulouse. Today, Twitter is at the heart of the debate. A competition of anti-Semitic jokes were posted under the Hashtag “UnBonJuif” (A Good Jew). Some tweets went as far as: “A Good Jew is a Dead Jew”/ “A Good Jew obeys when he has to go take a shower.”

This competition opens the debate on what should be allowed on the Internet. Should hate speech be considered Internet freedom of expression? French laws condemn hate speech both under civil and criminal laws. Furthermore, the ICCPR (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) all condemn the advocacy of hate speech based on nationality, race, religion or color. Internet freedom of expression is therefore controversial. Should we publish everything on the Internet? Can Twitter be held accountable for what has been published?

Under Article 4 of the International Convention on the Elimitation of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) “parties should criminalize the dissemination of ideas based on racial superiority or hatred, declare illegal and prohibit organizations that promote or incite racial discrimination (…) and prohibit public authorities and public institutions from promoting or inciting racial discrimination.” As a result of the ICERD, all Europeans nations condemn hate speech and have adopted legislation aimed at repressing hate speech. In addition, on November 7, 2002, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe adopted the “Additional Protocol to the Convention to the Convention on Cybercrime, concerning the criminalization of acts of a racist and xenophobic nature committed through computer systems.” The debate which arises from this is then: how much “freedom of expression” should we have on the Internet? What kind of “hate speech” must be censored? And how much of “freedom of expression” as a Human Right should we allow on the Internet?

For more information please go to France 24: http://www.france24.com/en/20121015-french-jews-denounce-anti-semitic-flood-twitter

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