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Twitter Users In France Convicted For Inciting Violence Against LGBT Community

For the first time ever, people have been convicted in France for using a hashtag that called for killing LGBT people in their tweets.

Posted on January 22, 2015, at 10:50 p.m. ET

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In France, three Twitter users have been fined for using the hashtag #BrûlonsLesGaysSurdu, or "Let's burn the gays." It is the first time France has handed down court convictions for anti-gay tweets.

The case was brought by the French LGBT charity Comité IDAHO, which filed a complaint against the three Twitter users, accusing them of inciting hatred and violence on the basis of sexual orientation. The group called the convictions a "significant victory."

Still, the LGBT group was disappointed the fines were not more severe. One user was fined 300 euros ($340) and the other two were fined 500 euros ($568), The Local reported. The maximum penalty is 45,000 euros (about $51,000).

"It's a significant victory," Alexandre Marcel, president of the Comité Idaho, told The Local. "But it's a small amount to pay for calling for the death of homosexuals."

France's hate speech law forbids communication that intends to discriminate against, incite hatred against, or cause harm to people based on their group identities. In 2004, France added protections against insults based on sex, sexual orientation, and handicap.

A French lawyer previously explained to The Local that what's said on Twitter should be treated as if the comments were made in a public space.

French LGBT rights groups regularly file complaints to Twitter about anti-gay hashtags, which the social media service usually removes from the trending topics column to make them less noticeable.

The current controversy was set off in August 2013, when LGBT groups reported that #LesGaysDoiventDisparaîtreCar, which translates to "Gays must die because," was trending.

The hashtag was visible at the top of the trending list, but wasn't immediately taken down. Then-government-spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem stepped in to denounce the tweets.

"I condemn homophobic tweets," she said. "Our work with Twitter and groups against homophobia is essential."

In January 2013, Twitter in France was involved in another situation over anti-Semitic speech, including tweets containing #UnBonJuif, which means "a good Jew." The court ruled Twitter had to hand over information identifying the users.