Twitter being sued in Germany for antisemitic posts

The verdict of the landmark case could for the first time set a precedent for numerous impacted communities.

  Twitter app logo is seen in this illustration taken, August 22, 2022 (photo credit: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC/ILLUSTRATION)
Twitter app logo is seen in this illustration taken, August 22, 2022
(photo credit: REUTERS/DADO RUVIC/ILLUSTRATION)

Twitter was hit by a lawsuit in Germany by an anti-hate speech group and the European Union of Jewish students in an attempt to force the platform to remove antisemitic content. 

The case, filed by The European Union of Jewish Students (EUJS) and HateAid, focuses on determining whether Twitter has a contractual obligation to its users, under its Terms of Service, to remove antisemitic tweets which contain sedition, including trivialization and denial of the Holocaust.

It claims that the platform has a lack of moderation regarding content which could incite hatred. The verdict of the landmark case could for the first time set a precedent for numerous impacted communities.

“Twitter has betrayed our trust. By allowing hateful content to spread, the company fails to protect users, and Jews in particular."

Avital Grinberg

Holocaust denial is a crime in Germany

The case points to one instance in which the removal of a post that denied the Holocaust was explicitly refused, said the groups.

 THE SHOAH Wall of Names Memorial in Vienna in 2021, bearing the names of more than 64,000 Austrian Jews killed in the Holocaust. (credit: Lisi Niesner/Reuters) THE SHOAH Wall of Names Memorial in Vienna in 2021, bearing the names of more than 64,000 Austrian Jews killed in the Holocaust. (credit: Lisi Niesner/Reuters)

“Twitter has betrayed our trust. By allowing hateful content to spread, the company fails to protect users, and Jews in particular," said President of EUJS Avital Grinberg. "What starts online, does not end there. Twitter cultivates real hate and violence, and as such, disregards our democratic values. For young people, engagement also means to commit and express themselves online. If Jews are forced out of the virtual space due to antisemitism and digital violence, Jewish life will become invisible in a place that is relevant to society.

"We will no longer tolerate this! Remembrance of the Shoah (Holocaust) must not be merely expressed through emotional speeches, but also through clear positions, resolute action and protective laws. This lawsuit is the response of resilient Jews to the failure of Twitter and the rule of law," Grinberg continued. 

“We’ve put the control over the public discourse on the internet into the hands of private companies and investors," said HateAid's legal head Josephine Ballon. "Twitter assures it won’t tolerate violence on its platform. Users have to be able to rely on that. But in practice, we see the opposite happening: Illegal content is at best removed in arbitrary and untransparent ways."

Ballon called for change. "Twitter owes us a communication platform where we can move freely and without fear of hatred and agitation.”

Does Twitter have an antisemitism problem?

Antisemitism on Twitter has been on the rise and is more common now than before, according to a September study.

The peer-reviewed study was done by the Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism (ISCA) and published by Springer. They said that they found that between the years 2019 and 2020, with one tweet being posted every 20 seconds, over two million of them that were about Jews or Israel were antisemitic.

"Antisemitic content was mostly related to conspiracies of Jewish global dominance, the Middle East conflict and the Holocaust," ISCA said. "We need to do more research to identify sources of antisemitic propaganda. Some of it originates in neo-Nazi groups, anti-Zionist organizations and state-sponsored activities from Iran and other countries."

Despite what Twitter had said in the past about them "cracking down on antisemitism and Holocaust denial," ISCA noted that those kinds of tweets have grown.