An anti-gay hashtag that was one of Twitter's trending topics in France over the weekend has sparked a lawsuit against the social media company.
According to local reports, the French committee that organizes the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, or IDAHO, announced its plans to file a complaint against Twitter for the propagation of anti-gay hate speech on Monday. The organization confirmed to Le Huffington Post that the complaint, demanding all hate tweets and insulting hashtags be removed, was filed against Twitter in France and California on Tuesday.
According to the committee, nearly 10,000 tweets were posted using the hashtag, #LesGaysDoiventDisparaitreCar ("Gays Must Disappear/Die Because"), about 900 of which directly called for the murder of gay people.
"This is a completely blatant call for the death and murder of gay people. It is totally unacceptable," Alexandre Marcel of IDAHO told France's The Local, adding, "Could you imagine being a 17 or 18-year-old gay person logging on to Twitter ... and seeing messages that call for you to be killed?"
One French Twitter user shared a photo of the anti-gay hashtag at the top of his trending topics late Friday.
Following the proliferation of the "Gays Must Die" hashtag, other anti-gay hashtags popped up in France, including #SiMonFilsEstGay (If My Son Is Gay), #TeamHomophobe and, most recently, #BrulonsLesGaysSurDu (Burn Gays On The).
Though Twitter in the past has complied with complaints about hate speech in France by removing inflammatory tweets or turning over data to help French authorities identify offenders, the company has yet to respond to the latest debacle.
In the meantime, while IDAHO prepares its lawsuit, French gay activists and allies have launched a counterattack on the hashtag by tweeting it with contradictory phrases in support of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, this is not the first time an anti-gay hashtag has become popular enough to emerge as a trending topic in the country. After France legalized gay marriage in April, #MortAuxGay (Death To Gays) began to trend on the social media platform.
A representative for Twitter could not be reached for comment at press time.