The suspension was noted between Monday evening and Tuesday afternoon. In the midst of a lawyers' strike, this profile is very active in the movement against pension reform.
“I am extremely shocked”, says Estellia Araez, president of the Syndicat des Avocats de France (SAF), at Franceinfo. The union's Twitter account was suspended on Monday evening February 17. “I noticed the suspension around 11pm”, specifies the lawyer. It was finally restored the next day, early in the afternoon.
It is through this profile that lawyers, on strike for seven weeks, relay their opposition to the pension reform, debated this week in the National Assembly. They rebelled against the plan for a future universal system, which would lead to a reduction in pensions and the doubling, in some cases, of lawyers' pension contributions.
SAF, one of the main lawyers' unions, a key player in the development of law in France
Have your account suspended by @TwitterFrance
For having questioned the deputies on their vote
– AuPalais (@palais_au) February 18, 2020
SAF quickly suspected that the suspension was linked to his social media challenge to the pension reform. For several days, the trade union of the profession used its profile to challenge the deputies of the Republic on the march. About twenty parliamentarians from the majority were contacted, according to the president of the SAF, with each time an identical message: “Are you going to vote for the pension reform which is no longer universal and will suffocate lawyers in particular [ceux] working at[aide juridictionnelle], and therefore prevent access to the law of the popular classes? ” An interrogation also taken up by the local sections of the union.
The deputy @LVichnievsky will you vote there #ReformeRetraites who is no longer universal and will suffocate lawyers, especially those working at the AJ, and prevent access to the law for the working classes?@CNBarreaux @Conf_Batonniers @pietraszewski_l @NBelloubet
– SAF Clermont-Ferrand (@FerrandSaf) February 15, 2020
“If this is linked to the number of arrests of certain LREM deputies, we are quite surprised”said the union president on Tuesday morning. “I hope these are not reports from some deputies. If it is [le cas], this is extremely serious “, worried at first Estellia Araez. A hypothesis swept away from the start by “walking” deputies. “I can't imagine for a second that this is the case”, said Aurore Bergé, spokesperson for LREM, on Tuesday morning, interviewed by franceinfo
Another explanation for the union is plausible: the functioning of the Twitter algorithm. The repeated sending of identical messages can potentially be considered by the social network as spam. In its rules, Twitter indeed indicates that “most of the accounts we suspend are spam, or just fake accounts “. “If an algorithm can do this without notice, without having to explain the reason, it's serious for freedom of expression”, gets carried away Estellia Araez.
The suspension of a lawyer’s union, presumably for a tweet sent to each MP asking them to take a stand on the pension reform, demonstrates the danger of automated censorship like that of the draft law. @LaetitiaAvia @syndicatavocats pic.twitter.com/zmfBq68ntI
– David van der Vlist (@David_dvdv) February 18, 2020
After the restoration of the account, Tuesday around 1 pm, the union had confirmation that it is the sending of these identical messages which was at the origin of this suspension. In a letter to the union, Twitter justifies this decision by “repeatedly posting identical tweets”.
The return of the account online did not calm the indignation of the union. “It remains very problematic, even if it was restored in 12 hours”, comments the president of the union. In a press release, the FAS denounces “a particularly serious attack on freedom of expression and freedom of association”adding that she “illustrates the dangers of automated censorship mechanisms”.
– The SAF (@syndicatavocats) February 18, 2020
On Twitter, the temporary closure of the profile had triggered many reactions. Several internet users made the parallel between this event and, conversely, the maintenance of the account of the ex-deputy LREM, Agnès Cerighelli, whose recent tweets have been reported to the public prosecutor for “provoking hatred”.
In @TwitterFrance :
– The account of Agnès Cerighelli is condemned by Justice for homophobia and continues its racist harassment:.
– M (@MaximeHaes) February 18, 2020
“There are really two weights, two measures”, comments the president of the union. “I hope Twitter will change its rules, which are particularly vague. They leave the power to the social network to choose, without defined criteria, what can be suspended”, says the union president.
The organization considers in its press release that it is a form of “censorship”, particularly serious during the lawyers' strike. “This questions us about how we can communicate about our actions”, worries lawyer Virginie Marques, active member of SAF, interviewed by franceinfo. It also remains that the account has lost all of its subscribers, whereas it had more than 7,000 before its suspension on Monday evening.