French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners

Trending hashtags included "let's burn the gays".

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The Independent Online

A French court has handed out convictions for anti-gay hate crimes on Twitter for the first time, after three people used the hashtag “let’s burn the gays”.

In what a major French LGBT rights group called a “significant victory”, three people were convicted in a Paris court this week after they accompanied tweets with hashtags including “let’s burn the gays on...“ or "#brûlonslesgayssurdu).”

During the same period in August 2013, “#Lesgaysdoiventdisparaîtrecar”, or “gays must die because...”, was also trending.

French LGBT charity Comité Idaho, which organises the nation’s International Day Against Homophobia, brought the case to court after it filed a complaint against the users for inciting hatred and violence on the basis of sexual orientation.

However, LGBT rights campaingers were disappointed by what they viewed as relatively light punishments, as the maximum punishment for such crimes is up to a year in prison and a €45,000 fine. One defendant was fined €300 while the other two were forced to pay €500, TheLocal.Fr reported.

Alexandre Marcel, president of the Comité Idaho, told The Local: "It’s a small amount to pay for calling for the death of homosexuals."

LGBT rights groups in France regularly report homophobic hashtags, which Twitter then removes from trending topics to make them less visible.

But when "#lesgaysdoiventdisparaîtrecar " ("Gays must die because") appeared as trending on the website, it was not immediately removed – prompting the then government spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem to condemn the tweets.

Twitter has been contacted by The Independent for a comment, but has not yet responded.

Yohann Roszewitch, president of SOS Homophobie, an LGBT association which also reports on homophobic tweets, told the website: "We’re positive that this will send out the message that the internet is not a place with no rules where you can do whatever you want."

Last year, SOS Homophobie revealed that the number of homophobic acts in France had increased by 78 percent in 2013.