At least 54 people, including the anti-Semitic comedian Dieudonné M'bala M'bala, have been detained by police in France for "defending or glorifying terrorism" in the wake of last week's attacks in Paris, 'The Independent' reports.
Many of the arrests are believed to stem from comments made on Facebook, Twitter and social media as the world reacted to the atrocities. They are part of a broader French crackdown on perceived hate speech and extremism seeing a government push for tougher anti-terrorism measures.
Dieudonné was among those detained after he seemed to compare himself to the supermarket gunman who murdered four people at a kosher supermarket, Amedy Coulibaly. The 48-year-old, whose shows were banned last year for incitement to hate, was being held for questioning at a Paris police station and could face possible charges of "apology for terrorism".
Paris state prosecutors had opened a formal investigation on Monday night into remarks made by the comedian on his Facebook page after the vast march in Paris on Sunday After mocking the media coverage of the rally, the comedian declared: "As for me, I feel I am Charlie Coulibaly".
A tweet sent from an official French police account had asked people to report Twitter users who were endorsing the Charlie Hebdo shooting, the BBC reported. A spokesperson for the French government said some of the people arrested have already been convicted of the offense.
While the #jesuisCharlie hashtag became one of the most used in the site’s history, #jesuisKouachi, using the name of the brothers who carried out the Charlie Hebdo massacre, was tweeted several thousands of times.
Roger Cukierman, the president of the French Jewish umbrella body CRIF and a vice-president of the World Jewish Congress, argued that Twitter should have censored the tweets as young people are now “educated” through social networks. “How can we accept that Twitter is accepting such messages, they are collaborating with criminals. It should be subject to penal law," Cukierman said.