A French court has ruled Twitter, which has steadfastly refused calls to police its millions of users, must hand over data to help identify the authors of racist or anti-Semitic tweets.
In a test case that pitted the right to free speech against laws banning hate speech, the court granted a request, lodged in October by France's Union of Jewish Students (UEJF), which argued that many tweets had breached French law.
The union had been pressing Twitter to exercise tighter control of what appeared on its internet site following a deluge of anti-Semitic messages posted under the hashtag #unbonjuif (#agoodjew). Twitter later removed some of the offending tweets.
The UEJF took legal action aimed at forcing Twitter to identify the authors of some of the posts.
The court in Paris yesterday ruled the site must do this "within the framework of its French site".
In October, Twitter suspended the account of a neo-Nazi group in Germany following a request from the Government in Berlin.
That was the first time the United States firm had applied a policy known as "country-withheld content", which allows it to block an account at the request of state authorities.
Twitter, which last month said the number of active users of the service had topped 200 million, said it deployed the tool developed only last year to restrict content in a single country rather than simply delete posted comments.