Invited to LCI Sunday 16 February, RN Jordan Bardella MEP pointed to the “Drifts” of the government “with regard to freedom of expression”. He claimed that“in 2016, 80% of requests to withdraw tweets worldwide came from the French government”, seeing there a blatant example of internet censorship. The True False Cell explains to you why its demonstration is unfounded.
According to the latest official data (in English) published by Twitter, there were 347 legal withdrawal requests in France in the first half of 2019, out of a total of 17,510. France therefore represents less than 2% of the global total of requests of this kind, far from the figures put forward by the MEP.
The only time we get close to the situation described by Jordan Bardella was in the second half of 2013, when France accounted for 87% of requests to delete tweets worldwide. The country was then in first place. But at that time, Twitter was not the same size as today and the number of French legal requests was very low worldwide: 353! And only 25 countries were counted.
The year 2016, mentioned by Jordan Bardella, is not particularly striking: France then represented only 19% of the global total of requests, with 1,800 requests.
Furthermore, if we observe the evolution of the figures since 2013, it is Turkey and Russia which send the most requests of this type to Twitter. As for China, mentioned by the MEP, it is impossible to know the reality of the figures because the social network is simply prohibited there.
The MEP only mentions the government, but requests to delete content can also come from the police, lawyers or partner organizations which fight against discrimination. They can also arise from court decisions. Twitter cites several examples of content removed in recent years, including hateful tweets against Bilal Hassani, the French star of Eurovision 2019. In May of the same year, an association had requested and obtained the deletion of a homophobic tweet against the two French hostages in Benin.
Even if the number of legal requests would be significant, the platform does not always agree to delete the targeted content. We also observe that the Twitter approval rate is relatively low for France: 9% in the first six months of 2019. For each request, Twitter checks the compliance of the tweets with its conditions of use.
From there, two possibilities of sanction: either the platform judges a tweet contrary to its conditions of use and it can go as far as deleting the content; or it judges the content contrary only to the legislation of a particular country, then it can be “restricted”, that is to say inaccessible to users in the country where the law has been broken.