Elon Musk, Twitter hit with hate speech lawsuit in Germany

Twitter CEO Elon Musk faced a lawsuit in a Berlin court yesterday alleging that he and Twitter are allowing Holocaust denial to fester on the platform.

The lawsuit, filed by HateAid – a group that campaigns against hate speech – in partnership with the European Union of Jewish Students, argued that Twitter had failed to enforce its own rules against anti-Semitic content and Holocaust denial.

Germany has strict laws against anti-Semitic hate speech and Holocaust denial is a crime in the country.

“Twitter promises to protect all of its users. But anti-Semitism is a normality on the platform,” the HateAid website says. “Insults against Jews; trivialization and denial of the Shoah; anti-Semitic statements, pictures and videos can be found all over Twitter. The platform’s lack of moderation is leading to an unprecedented spread of anti-Semitic ideology.”

Musk has said in the past that Twitter respects the laws of the countries in which it operates, but has yet to comment on this particular lawsuit. Reports surfaced yesterday that Twitter was bowing to Indian government demands to censor links to a BBC documentary about Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

For his part, Musk has assured users that anything expressed on the platform will be protected, calling himself a “free speech absolutist.” Studies have shown that hate speech has increased on the platform since Musk acquired it. The lawsuit, launched in Berlin, focuses on examples of hate speech posted on Twitter since Musk took the helm.

“With this landmark case, we seek to obtain a court order that clearly states that platforms like Twitter are legally bound by their own rules and policies to protect users from anti-Semitic digital violence,” HateAid said. “Such a court decision will make it easier for users to enforce their rights against the major platform operators in the future. The underlying principle is quite simple: if the terms of the contract prohibit incitement to hatred, Twitter has an obligation to its users to remove such content.”

Josephine Ballon, HateAid’s head of legal, said in a press release that users need to be able to rely on Twitter to enforce their own policies.

“We have put control of public discourse online in the hands of private companies and investors,” she said. “Twitter pledges that it will not tolerate violence on its platform. Users must be able to rely on this. In practice, however, we see the opposite: illegal content is at best removed arbitrarily and in a non-transparent manner. That finally has to change. Twitter owes us a communication platform on which we can move freely and without fear of hate and hate speech.”


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*Initial publication: January 25, 2023 3:14 pm CST

Jacob Seitz

Jacob Seitz is a freelance journalist originally from Columbus, Ohio, interested in the intersection of culture and politics.

Jacob Seitz

https://www.dailydot.com/debug/elon-musk-twitter-lawsuit-germany-antisemitism/ Elon Musk, Twitter hit with hate speech lawsuit in Germany

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