France imposes stricter EU rules for social media following terrorist attack – POLITICO


France is pushing the EU to toughen upcoming rules for social media platforms following the beheading of a schoolteacher in France, arguing that “harmful content” such as hate speech must be brought under control.

The push, which comes as Brussels draws up new regulations for platforms like Facebook and Twitter, includes urging the EU to go beyond its current target on illegal content, according to an EU official with first-hand knowledge. main the position of France.

Ministers in the government of French President Emmanuel Macron are also lining up to criticize the platforms’ content moderation efforts after Samuel Paty, the murdered schoolteacher, faced a wave of harassment online.

“Today we have neither the information nor the capacity to force the big social media platforms to implement [content] a moderation worthy of what they represent… A text pushed by France will be presented at the beginning of December at the European level ”, declared Cédric O, Junior Minister of Digital he told me during the weekend.

Paris has long been a driving force in the EU’s efforts to curb tech companies. But the harassment of Paty, who was killed for showing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in a classroom, prompted the government to step up pressure on the European Commission.

The push comes as the Commission is due to present on December 2 a legislative proposal known as the Digital Services Act that will set out content moderation rules for platforms such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and TikTok. New rules could include the harmonization of notice and take down procedures across the bloc.

The stakes are high for France. A national hate speech law was struck down before the summer by the Constitutional Council for infringing freedom of expression. Since then, the author of the law Laetitia Avia has led the fight in Brussels.

“The regulation of platforms has been a priority for the French government, and not just in recent days. There has been an acceleration in the sense that the Prime Minister himself has seized on the issue, ”said Avia, deputy of the Republic of Macron. On the move, which is in regular contact with the Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton and his team about the regulation of platforms.

Plan B of France

Prime Minister Jean Castex sent an urgent message during his inaugural visit to Brussels last week.

“It is important for France to progress – and to do so very quickly – on strict regulation of these networks, ”Castex said after meeting Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Breton. A French official added that Paris hoped for swift negotiations in Brussels in 2021.

However, if European legislation does not go far enough on hate speech, the French government is ready to add measures in an upcoming national bill that aims to fight radical Islam, according to the Journal du Dimanche.

The French bill is expected on December 9 – a week after the digital services law, although it is currently unclear what kind of new obligations would be included if Paris were not satisfied with the country’s proposal. EU.

The French government could also decide to incorporate the DSA obligations into its own bill to ensure that they are applicable more quickly in France, Avia said.

O’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Go beyond illegal content

Behind the scenes, France lobbied for far-reaching legislation that would cover a wide range of content.

Paris recently released a document claiming that the digital services law should go beyond illegal content to tackle harmful but legal content, such as disinformation, an EU official with knowledge of the matter told POLITICO. firsthand document. The document was drafted before the terrorist attack, French officials said.

The French authorities also wrote that future legislation should not only set rules for the removal of content after notification, but also impose transparency and monitoring obligations on content moderation algorithms and filtering tools on platforms, a said the EU official.

When it comes to disinformation, measures to reduce the virality of content – such as downgrading its visibility or limiting sharing – would be more appropriate than deletions and blocking, according to the French.

France also wants regulators and civil society to be able to audit moderation algorithms, which means having access to data, and having more information on human moderation. Regulators should also have the power to issue injunctions and, in the event of systemic content removal failure, sanctions.

The Minister of the Economy, Bruno Le Maire, recently launched fines of up to 4% of the company’s turnover.

“Whether the Commission decides on 3 or 5 percent [fines] is irrelevant, what matters is that it’s effective, ”O said over the weekend.

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