France: 11 people convicted of cyberbullying teenagers over anti-Islam videos | Courts news
The Paris court handed down suspended sentences and fines in the landmark online abuse case.
A French court has convicted 11 of 13 people accused of harassing and threatening a teenage girl over her anti-Islam videos online.
The court on Wednesday sentenced the defendants to suspended prison terms of four to six months, meaning they will not serve a prison sentence unless they are convicted of other offenses, and gave them a fined approximately $ 1,770 each.
The lawsuits came after the 18-year-old girl, known as Mila, was forced to change schools and accept police protection due to threats to her life following the putting online of his first videos in 2020.
The trial in Paris was the first of its kind since France created a new tribunal in January to prosecute online crimes, including harassment and discrimination.
“Social networks are the streets. When you cross someone in the street, you do not insult him, do not threaten him, do not make fun of them ”, declared Michel Humbert, president of the court. “What you don’t do on the street, don’t do it on social media.”
“I don’t like any religion”
Mila, who has only been identified by first name, testified in the landmark cyberbullying case last month, saying she felt as though she had been “sentenced to death.”
She describes herself as an atheist and was 16 when she started posting videos on Instagram and later on TikTok, harshly criticizing Islam and the Quran.
She has since become a divisive public figure in France, seen by her supporters as a symbol of free speech and the right to blasphemy, and by critics as deliberately provocative and Islamophobic.
“I don’t like any religion, not just Islam,” she said during the trial.
His lawyer, Richard Malka, said he had received 100,000 threatening messages, including death and rape threats, and hate messages about his sexual orientation.
One of them told her that she deserved “to have her throat cut.”
The 13 defendants from across France came from diverse backgrounds and religions and represented just a handful of all those who have targeted Mila with comments online.
The others could not be found.
One of the 13 was acquitted because his message – “Blow it up” – was directed to Mila’s Twitter account, and not to the young woman. The court dropped the case against another defendant for flawed procedures.
Macron defends the “right to blasphemy”
The case received such public attention as it touches on several contemporary issues in France, from the effects of cyberbullying and hate speech online to the country’s free speech laws and attitudes towards religious minorities.
In a first viral video posted to Instagram in January 2020, Mila responded to the personal abuse of a boy who she said insulted her “in the name of Allah”.
She embarked on a swearing rant containing comments that would be very offensive to observant Muslims.
France’s strict hate speech laws criminalize inciting hatred against a group on the basis of their religion or race, but they do not prevent people from criticizing or insulting religious beliefs.
President Emmanuel Macron was among those who defended Mila, saying “the law is clear” and that French citizens “have the right to blaspheme, criticize and caricature religions”.