A group fighting homophobia has filed a complaint against Twitter for incitement to hatred following a stream of anti-gay tweets on its French site at the weekend, a lawyer told AFP Tuesday.
The IDAHO Committee's French branch lodged a complaint in Paris after tweets appeared on Saturday and Sunday with hashtags entitled "gays must disappear" and "let's burn gays", lawyer Felicite-Esther Zeifman told AFP.
"These illicit tweets on Twitter's site characterise the offence of public incitement to discrimination, to hatred or national, racial or religious violence," read the complaint seen by AFP.
"Despite alerts, Twitter allowed a homophobic atmosphere to develop on the social network and gave no serious response" to the tweets, the group said when it announced it would complain.
The French ministers for women's rights and the digital economy condemned the abuse in a joint statement.
"Incitement to discrimination, hatred or violence towards a person or group of people because of where they come from, their religion or their sexual orientation is against French law. These acts or words are punishable by law and the fact that they were delivered virtually does not make the people behind them any less punishable," Najat Vallaud-Belkacem and Fleur Pellerin said in a statement yesterday.
Twitter's head of safety, Del Harvey, wrote on his account @delbius: "Twitter conforms to the laws of the countries in which it is present but does not proactively survey or filter content. If content is flagged as violating Twitter rules it will be checked and dealt with accordingly".
The "let's burn gays" hashtag had been removed though homophobic messages continued to be visible on the site.
Twitter hit the headlines this month after a woman lawmaker and feminist campaigner in Britain received threats, including of rape.
The microblogging platform has faced calls to do more to prevent abuse, with an online petition calling for it to add a "report abuse" button to tweets attracting more than 120,000 signatures.
In July, Twitter handed over data to French authorities to help identify the authors of anti-Semitic tweets.
Extra staff were being added to its teams handling abuse reports, Twitter said.