France forces web giants to delete content within an hour


PARIS (Reuters) – Social networks and other online content providers will have to remove pedophile and terrorism-related content from their platforms within the hour or incur a fine of up to 4% of their global revenue under a French law passed Wednesday.

For other “manifestly illegal” content, companies such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat will have 24 hours to delete it, according to law, which establishes a specialized digital prosecutor in the courts and a government unit to observe hate speech online.

Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet told Parliament that the law would help reduce online hate speech.

“People will think twice before crossing the red line if they know there is a good chance that they will be held accountable,” she said.

Free speech advocates have criticized the new law.

Online civil liberties group La Quadrature du Net (LQDN) said in a statement that lawmakers should have targeted the business models of internet giants.

He said it was unrealistic to think that the content could be removed within the hour and that the law was not necessary.

“If the site does not censor the content (for example because the complaint was sent at the weekend or at night), the police can force Internet service providers to block the site everywhere in France”, said -he explains.

Audrey Herblin-Stoop, Director of Public Affairs for Twitter France, said the company would continue to work closely with the government to build a safer Internet and combat illegal hate speech, while protecting an open Internet, the freedom of expression and fair competition.

She said ensuring public debate is civil is paramount, adding that Twitter’s investments in technologies that report hate speech will reduce the burden on users of having to call illegal content.

For one tweet on two in which the company intervened, it had already been alerted by software, against 1 in 5 in 2018, she explained.

The far-right party of the National Rally, Marine Le Pen, said the law was “a serious violation of freedom of expression.”

Facebook did not resend calls and emails requesting comments, Google and Snapchat were not immediately available for comment.

Report by Elizabeth Pineau and Mathieu Rosemain; Written by Geert De Clercq; Editing by David Evans and Barbara Lewis

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