A Twitter trend emerged in France, prompting outcries of unchecked antisemitism just days after French lawmakers passed sweeping online anti-discrimination legislation.
The hashtag #sijetaitunjuif, which translates to English as “If I Was Jewish,” began appearing at the tops of French users’ Twitter feeds as a barrage of tweets hit the social network mocking the Holocaust and touting terrorist attacks against Jews. Pro-Jewish groups, journalists and French lawmakers alike blasted the emergence of such a blatant antisemitic trend despite Twitter and Facebook’s recent agreement to comply with the European countries’ strict online anti-racism measures.
Earlier this month, France’s parliament passed a new bill, known as the Avia law, requiring websites to delete offending content within 24 hours or face massive fines.
Dozens of vitriolic posts making light of the Nazi death camps were posted to Twitter in the past 24 hours, including one shared widely in screenshots which reads, “I would use my grandfather’s grave as an ashtray.” And another tied to the “If I Was Jewish” hashtag trend which read, “I will put the family in the oven to continue the tradition.” An alternative spelling, version of the hashtag translated to “throw out the Jews.
After months of pressure from the French government to comply with the Avia law and other online anti-discrimination orders, the American companies of Twitter and Facebook recently agreed. After meetings with French President Emmanuel Macron, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg agreed to hand over to judges any data the company has which could identify the French users suspected of posting hate speech.
Back in America, the social media giants have taken diverging paths in terms of political ads, hate speech and policing posts. Last year, Twitter announced its first iteration of policies that banned political ads just weeks after Facebook controversially implemented a policy where most political ads posted to the social network are not fact-checked.
France’s so-called “Avia Law” is named for the French lawmaker who drafted the legislation, La République en Marche (LREM) Party member Laetitia Avia. Macron, also a member of the LREM, has made regulation of social media platforms, in particular a crackdown on hate speech, a priority of his administration.
“I am horrified, this is part of the usual antisemitism on social networks,” National Assembly LREM member Sylvain Maillard said during a TV program, responded to the #sijetaitunjuif hashtag which also contains a typo. “This is why we passed the Avia law.”
Other posts containing the hashtag featured Islamic State flags and threats against Jewish sites and Israel.
The International League against Racism and Antisemitism—or Ligue Internationale Contre le Racisme et l’Antisémitisme (LICRA) responded : “The antisemitic hashtag #sijetaitunjuif is not only an absolute shame, a marker of antisemitism which must lead to blocking the perpetrators. It shows how antisemites, in addition to hating Jews, hate the French language.”
This is not the first time the #sijetaitunjuif emerged on Twitter. The hashtag traces ties to tweets dating back as far as 2012, when the company initially received backlash over seemingly unchecked content.