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Cyberbullying Trial Tests French Tools for Fighting Online Abuse

Paris (AP) — A groundbreaking cyberbullying trial in Paris, including thousands of threats to teenagers who attacked Islam in online posts, is an effort to punish and prevent online abuse It is paving the way.

It also raised unpleasant questions about freedom of expression, freedom to criticize religion, and respect for millions of French Muslims. But above all, it’s a trial on the power of the online ward, and prosecutors hope it serves as an awakening call to those who treat it lightly.

Thirteen young people from all over France from different backgrounds and religions were sentenced to imprisonment for online harassment, online murder threats, online rape threats and more in a two-day trial on Tuesday. There is a possibility of being punished. This is the first of its kind since France created a new court in January to prosecute online crimes such as harassment and discrimination.

One of the defendants wants to be a police officer. Another wants to increase followers by making people laugh. Some deny cheating, others apologize. Most people say they tweeted or posted without thinking.

The teenager at the center of the trial was publicly identified only by her name, Mira, and she told the court that she felt “sentenced to death.”

“I can’t see my future,” she said.

Mira, who describes herself as an atheist, was 16 when she started posting videos on Instagram. After that, TikTok severely criticized Islam and the Quran. At the age of 18, she testified, “I don’t like any religion, not just Islam.”

Her lawyer, Richard Marca, said Mira received about 100,000 threatening messages, including threats of murder, threats of rape, misogyny messages, and messages of hatred about her homosexuality.

Mira had to quit high school and then another high school. She is currently being monitored daily by police for her safety.

“It was a cataclysm, it feels like the sky is falling in our heads … a conflict with pure hatred,” her mother told the court.

Mira’s online enemies do not fit into a single profile. Among thousands of threats, authorities tracked 13 suspects on trial this week. According to French custom, everything is publicly identified only by their name.

The trial focused on comments by Mira in November criticizing Islam in response to a TikTok video. Defendant Manfred threatened to turn her into another Samuel Patty, a teacher who was decapitated outside Paris in October after showing a portrait of the Prophet Muhammad in class.

“I’m pretending to be a stalker to make people laugh,” Manfred told the court.

“I knew she was controversial because she criticized Islam. I wanted to have fun and get new subscribers,” he testified.

Defendant Enzo, 22, apologized in court for tweeting that he was “worthy of tearing his throat,” followed by a sexist adjective.

Others claimed that their posts did not constitute a crime.

“At the time, I wasn’t aware that it was harassment. I wasn’t thinking when I posted the tweet,” testified Lauren, a 21-year-old college student who tweeted about Mira.

One of the few Muslim defendants, 20-year-old Alyssa, said she responded “like everyone else on Twitter” and supported criticism of Mira’s post.

The defense lawyer argued that insulting God and religion and humans was not the same, but Alyssa disagreed.

“For me, it’s of the same nature. Mira used freedom of expression. I thought it was freedom of expression (and tweeting the reaction of anger),” she said.

Freedom of expression is considered a fundamental right and is not a crime in France. After Mira’s first video in January 2020, a legal complaint was filed against her for inciting racial hatred. The investigation was withdrawn due to lack of evidence.

Some French Muslims feel that their country and the government of President Emmanuel Macron have unfairly condemned their religious practices.

Mira’s online video rekindled those concerns and disrupted French society. The threat to her was widely condemned, but former socialist president Francois Hollande said she had the right to criticize religion, but “she should not give hate speech about those who practice their religion. Insisted.

Nofel, 19, saw no harm when he tweeted that Mira was worthy of the death penalty and insulted her sexuality. He wants to pass the test to become a gendarmerie and not be sentenced to keep a good record. The trial gave him a new perspective on online activities.

“Without social media, everyone would live a normal life,” he said. “Now, many people think before writing.”

If convicted of online harassment, the defendant faces up to two years in prison and a fine of € 30,000 (about $ 37,000). Others have been accused of threatening online killings, imprisonment for up to three years, and fines of up to € 45,000 ($ 55,000).

However, the prosecutor only demanded a suspended sentence. The verdict is expected at a later date.

“You have the power to thwart this digital lynch,” defense lawyer Marca told the judge. “Only fear of the law remains.”

Mira continues to work on social networks.

“I need to show that I don’t change who I am and what I think,” she said. “I think it’s like a woman who was raped on the street and told not to go out so that it wouldn’t happen again.”

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Contributed by Angela Charlton of Paris.

Cyberbullying Trial Tests French Tools for Fighting Online Abuse

Source link Cyberbullying Trial Tests French Tools for Fighting Online Abuse

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