Macron wants to fight hate on the net more fiercely

Macron wants to crack down on hate on the web

A new law in the name of the fight against anti-Semitism and racism is to systematically facilitate and accelerate the extinguishing of offensive attacks

French President Macron wants to take stronger action against hate on the net. A bill to this effect is to be discussed in the National Assembly starting in May, and is expected to be passed after the summer vacations. Tough action to be taken on content that spreads hate. This is one of the central concerns.

Hate content on social networking sites is particularly targeted: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, TikTok or Snapchat – as far as public content is concerned – as Laetitia Avia points out. The deputy from the ruling party La Republique en marche (LRM) is leading the drafting of the law.

Parallels to the NetzDG

Reading about the hefty fines to impress internet giants like Google (YouTube) or Facebook, one inevitably thinks of the German Network Enforcement Act (NetzDG) with its multi-million dollar bubbles of money. While in Germany fines of up to 50 million euros are threatened, in France a maximum fine of 35 million euros is planned.

Basic weak points are also shared. Also for content on French Facebook or Twitter accounts, the hate or hate speech is not allowed. Discriminatory/insulting content is not always clearly identifiable as such, so that the new regulations become part of the struggle for interpretative or cultural sovereignty, without changing the situation that led to the law. The insults are not getting any less.

Whether the new law is really an effective instrument for curbing anti-Semitic, racist and other defamatory attacks is in doubt. Side effects are also feared in France.

But first, let’s look at Macron’s promises for the new law. He announced his intention to do so a year ago at an event organized by CRIF, the umbrella organization of French Jewish organizations. At last week’s meeting, he renewed his announcement.

Under prere to act

The anti-Semitism in France caused in the last ten days, as reported several times for coarser waves ( Anti-Semitism: Yellow vests under prere of proof). So it was natural for Macron to point out to the umbrella organization that his government is about to respond with a tougher law.

While the planned law, as Le Monde reports, is part of a broader plan by the French government to explicitly combat racism and anti-Semitism, it also addresses hatred, insults and defamation directed against gender, sexual dispositions, ethnicity, religious affiliation or disabilities.

What is new?

Macron is said to have compared the action to stadium bans against hooligans. Given the complexities of the web, where a website can easily escape the reach of French authorities, the effort to reach out to the tangible world is rough, but does not help much in practice. This is demonstrated by the fact that it has been in force for 15 years(!) there is a law that can be applied against hate content.

The law on confidence in the digital economy (la loi de confiance sur l’economique numerique – LCEN, from 2004) is referred to by the above-mentioned LREM deputy Laetitia Avia as a key reference, as is the criticism of the new law by La Quadrature du Net, a civil society institution in France that has been committed to citizens’ freedoms on the Net for many years.

Their criticism can be summarized in one sentence: The action plan "against hate" Provides nothing new, but only rehashes what the existing law has determined for the past 15 years. On the side of the lawmakers, Laetitia Avia argues that it is "provisions modified", that the law now allows recourse to the judiciary now "regulates more systematically and thus enables them to act more effectively".

The suspicion that the Macron government has not taken a giant step forward is rather confirmed.

It should happen quickly

What is new is the presence and influence of the aforementioned social networking sites like Facebook, that was not the case 15 years ago. The difficulty of defining what is hate content, however, has remained similarly difficult. The government is either relying on software provided by Facebook et al. is used to report violations automatically, based on certain keywords – with the known difficulties. In the main, however, signaling comes down to users reporting such content.

For this, there is the plan that the click buttons for reports of hate content will be graphically standardized as much as possible. And: it should be fast. The government attaches great importance to the fact that the contributions are deleted as quickly as possible, within 24 hours. The blocking of websites with objectionable content will also be less complicated and faster than before. The cooperation of companies such as Facebook and Google is needed, as well as that of the providers. With both, the government pays attention to good relations, as La Quadrature du Net critically notes.

La Quadrature du Net also mentions a possible side effect in another article.

Side effects

The media landscape in France is very homogeneous, to say the least, with reports from the larger media on protests resembling each other in framing, integration and suspension of the topics ("Framing"). This has not only been seen since the Yellow Vest protest movement, but has been seen before, for example, in the protests against the labor law.

All the more important are evasive possibilities for the free expression of opinion … Regulations in social networks, which operate in gray areas and on a censorship basis, are a delicate matter, if one wants an information landscape that relies on polyphony.

Anyone who looks at what posts are submitted for blocking from German Twitter sites becomes very skeptical about the amption that such anti-hate laws are definitely heading in a good direction. Not seldomly templates to the administrator, which become known, concern Beitrage, with which no inciting hate or anti-Semitism is to be recognized, but a sharp criticism of political currents, which could ill persons.

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