A new deal between France and Facebook could potentially be used to crack down on French Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) activists on the social media platform.
In a world first, France’s new deal with Facebook means information on users can be handed directly to the French judiciary, if requested, allowing it to bypass the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty process.
The new deal is being touted as part of the fight against “hate speech”.
France holds some of the toughest laws on BDS; its “Lellouche Law” bans discrimination against persons of another country of origin and has previously been used to target BDS activists, seeing criminal convictions handed out for peaceful protests.
A Facebook spokesperson said of the deal: “As a matter of course, we will no longer refer French law enforcement authorities to the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty process to request basic information in criminal hate speech cases.”
The statement continued: “However, as we do with all court orders for information, even in the US, we will scrutinise every order we receive and push back if is overbroad, inconsistent with human rights, or legally defective.”
Recently there has been a concerted effort to crack down on BDS activity in Europe, with the German Bundestag last month voting to define BDS as “anti-Semitic”.
The motion claimed “the arguments, patterns and methods of the BDS movement are anti-Semitic”, arguing that BDS’ “don’t buy” stickers – which aim to identify products of Israeli origin so consumers can refrain from purchasing them – “arouse associations [with] the Nazi slogan ‘Don’t buy from Jews’” and are “reminiscent of the most horrific phase in German history”.
Israel has repeatedly pressured European states to intensify this crackdown – earlier this month, Israel’s Strategic Affairs Ministry announced that it had forced the closure of 20 Europe-based BDS fundraising accounts by repeatedly reporting them to host platforms PayPal and DonorBox.
Among those organisations targeted by the shut downs were the BDS National Committee – the movement’s Ramallah-based arm – as well as human rights organisation Al-Haq and UK-based charity Interpal.
Just a day later, the involvement of Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad in these efforts was revealed. Following a freedom of information request by Israeli advocacy organisation Hatzlaha, the diaries of Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan were made public, disclosing that he met with head of Mossad Yossi Cohen about “the struggle against the boycott” on several occasions throughout 2018.