Twitter compelled to communicate the identifying data of an anonymous account that published a tweet containing personal information on a politician

08/03/2021

During the 2019 European elections, the former general secretary of the party “Debout la France” (in English “Wake up France”), notes that private exchanges with party executives and personal photographs are broadcasted on Twitter through an anonymous account.

He filed a complaint for (i) maneuvers likely to influence the electoral vote, (ii) violation of of privacy, and (iii) violation of the secrecy of correspondence, including those with his lawyer.

On July 16, 2019, the Secretary General, the President, and other executives of Debout la France filed a summary judgment against Twitter France and Twitter International Company.

By an order of October 30, 2019, the judge in charge of summary proceedings of the Paris Court of Justice (i) dismissed the case against Twitter France, but (ii) ordered Twitter International to disclose to the plaintiff the email associated with the disputed account and the telephone number, IP address corresponding to the use of this account, as well as the names of the Twitter accounts that have rebroadcasted one or more tweets from the account in question, as well as the emails, telephones and IP addresses linked to these accounts.

On February 5, 2020, Twitter appealed this order.

In its decision of February 10, 2021, the Paris Court of Appeal noted that the plaintiffs’ claims were based on Article 145 of the Code of Civil[1] Procedure and confirmed the presence of a legitimate reason to request the in futurum investigation measure.

Indeed, as Twitter International did not contest the measure ordered against the holder of the disputed Twitter account, it acknowledges the existence of an incipient lawsuit not manifestly doomed to failure on the basis of (i) civil fault due to the defamatory nature of the tweets noted by the first judge and (ii) the offense of Article 226-15 of the Criminal Code[2] .

Regarding the persons having retweeted the disputed publications or having transferred them with a “like”, the potential litigation concerning them is clearly not doomed to failure either, on the basis of civil fault because of their defamatory character.

Secondly, the Court of Appeal considers that the request for disclosure the names of the Twitter accounts that have rebroadcasted tweets from the anonymous account, as well as associated data, does not exceed the admissible measures of investigation within the meaning of Article 145 of the Code of Civil Procedure, since its scope of investigation is limited to only those Twitter accounts that have rebroadcasted the disputed messages from a Twitter account that has only been in operation for one month.

Finally, the Court of Appeals considers that Twitter International does not justify the reasons why it would not be able to communicate the telephone numbers of the Twitter users targeted by the investigative measure.

In any event, the Paris Court of Appeals confirms the order of the interim relief judge in all its provisions.

UGGC Law Firm and its team specialized in public affairs and in the defense of personality and privacy rights are at your disposal for any questions you may have on this subject.

By the IP/IT team of UGGC Law Firm

Judgment references: Court of Appeal, Paris, (Pôle 1 – ch. 3), February 10, 2021, Sté Twitter International Company v. Jean-Philippe T, RG n°19/57685

Sources : Capital


[1] Article 145 of the Code of Civil Procedure: « If there is a legitimate reason to preserve or establish before any trial evidence of facts on which the solution of a dispute may depend, legally admissible investigative measures may be ordered at the request of any interested party, on motion or in summary proceedings».

[2] Article 226-15 of the Penal Code: « The act, committed in bad faith, of opening, deleting, delaying or diverting correspondence, whether or not it has arrived at its destination and addressed to third parties, or of fraudulently taking knowledge of it, is punishable by one year’s imprisonment and a fine of €45,000.

 The same penalties apply to the act, committed in bad faith, of intercepting, diverting, using or disclosing correspondence sent, transmitted or received by the (L. no. 2011-525 of May 17, 2011, art. 150-2o) “electronic means” or of installing equipment (L. no. 2013-1168 of Dec. 18, 2013, art. 23) “of such a nature as to enable the carrying out” of such interceptions. – — V.  Arr. of July 4, 2012 ff. art. R. 226-1.

  (L. no. 2020-936 of July 30, 2020, art. 18) “When they are committed by the spouse or cohabitee of the victim or the partner linked to the victim by a civil solidarity pact, these acts are punishable by two years’ imprisonment and a fine of 60,000 euros.»

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