Cars were set on fire, shop windows were smashed and violent clashes broke out between police and protesters. These images are from France Eight days of unrest in France followed the shooting death of 17-year-old North African Nahel Merzouk by a police officer during a traffic jam on June 27.
The average age of the more than 3,300 people arrested that week was 17, and some of them were children Detained at the age of 12 during the riots. French President Emmanuel Macron has accused social media platforms such as Snapchat or TikTok and even video games of inciting youth violence and threatened to cut ties with them.
Politicians from both parties in French politics have accused Macron of endorsing authoritarian leaders such as Iran, China and Russia, where people need to turn to VPN services to access blocked apps. However, European Commissioner Thierry Breton has now backed Macron’s call for a debate. Social media shutdowns could be enforced if the platforms fail to quickly remove hateful content during the riots under the new Digital Services Act, he said.
EU Digital Services Act (DSA)
“Social media is not doing enough,” Breton told France Information. Politico reports. “If they don’t act immediately, then yes, at that point we can not only impose a fine but ban the action [of the platforms] on our territory. “
Similar to the UK’s attempted Online Safety Act, the Digital Services Act (DSA) aims to tackle online dangers, hateful content, consumer fraud, business surveillance and disinformation. Promoters of the DSA say its main goal is to protect children and democratic values, and failure to comply with the new rules could lead to fines of up to 6 percent of a company’s global turnover.
The DSA, which went into effect on August 25, brought some important regulations to digital services, including greater transparency and accountability over the algorithms and content moderation practices employed, a ban on deceptive designs, and a special duty of care for large platforms. The latter includes an obligation to immediately remove hateful content when required.
Sebastian Becker Castellaro, policy advisor at European digital rights advocacy group EDRi, told TechRadar that “online platforms have a responsibility to enforce the DSA and its terms and conditions, with due regard for freedom of expression.”
He added, “It is problematic that the highest authority in charge of DSA implementation declares what is hate content. According to European fundamental rights standards, ‘calls for rebellion’ or even ‘calls for cars to be burned’ are not hate content and therefore fall under the category of hate content.” Not illegal . “
It is the vagueness and ambiguity of several provisions of the DSA that have been worrying digital rights activists, who are now calling for regulators to work better with these groups to reduce risk.
The #DSA Human Rights Coalition releases a new statement asking the @EU_Commission to formalize and include global civil society voices in implementing its content moderation rulebook 💪🏻 https://t.co/refjeXxABuJuly 6, 2023
Eliška Pírková, European policy analyst and global head of free expression at Access Now, said the DSA aims to protect, not hinder, the fundamental rights of EU citizens.
“The Digital Services Act does not contain any provisions calling for such extreme measures. Political messages that might suggest that the Act justifies shutting down the internet or blocking online platforms arbitrarily are misleading,” she said.
Like any law attempting to regulate the internet, the DSA is not perfect. Both experts told TechRadar to be particularly concerned about the law’s approach to entities tasked with detecting and identifying illegal content online because it allows governments and law enforcement agencies to maintain the status of trusted whistleblowers.
This could “open the door to potential notification, action and human rights abuses”, especially in those EU member states where the rule of law has already been weakened, Pirkova said.
“A situation like France’s makes us concerned about certain terms,” Becker-Castellaro said again, citing the conundrum of trusted whistleblowers. “It is problematic that the political situation in a given European country could affect the implementation of the DSA.”
As protests across France subside, the risk of social media apps being blocked is gone — at least for now. However, Macron said the possibility of imposing a social media block “when things get out of hand” is “a real debate we need to have”.
Center-right Senator Patrick Chaize has introduced amendments to France’s tech bill on July 3, requiring social media platforms to block hateful content within two hours of posting it. On 5 July, government spokesman Olivier Véran mentioned Suspension of functions Similar geolocation could also be used to prevent rioters from organizing during riots.
An official on the team of French Digital Minister Jean-Noël Barrot said the possibility of shutting down the platforms had not been discussed, although the government did not mention it publicly when it met with the companies behind the platforms on July 7. tell politicians.
Angry crowds took to the streets of France from June 27 to July 4, calling for greater police accountability and against so-called racial profiling. Protests spread across the outskirts of several cities, including Paris, Lille and Toulouse.
Damages were estimated to exceed 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion), with more than 200 businesses looted, 300 bank branches and 250 tobacco shops destroyed. wealth. This does not include damage to schools, town halls, community centres, city buses and citizens’ cars.
Rioters reportedly used social media platforms and other messaging apps to organize themselves and mobilize more people.As such, the French government strongly opposes their use and calls on the companies behind these services to delete anonymous Those who may break the law.
However, Becker Castellaro said: “Challenging the authorities and organizing demonstrations on social platforms are fundamental rights of citizens and are protected in the EU.”
The situation is all the more worrisome given that French lawmakers voted on July 5 to give police further powers to spy on citizens suspected of violating the law through their cellphones and other devices.
Governments that are notorious for their more authoritarian policies are more likely to attack freedom on social media, but sadly shutting down social media has become a tactic increasingly used around the world.
“Banning access to online platforms, such as social media, is the tool of choice for authoritarian regimes to censor and oppress without adequate safeguards,” Pirkova told TechRadar. It’s a hard blow to core values, and it’s hard to recover.”
She went on to explain that restricting online access always leads to serious violations of people’s fundamental rights.
And, even if citizens manage to get around these blocks by using location-spoofing tools like virtual private networks (VPNs), internet shutdowns can negatively impact people’s well-being while costing national economies millions of dollars.
The European Union, including France, is well aware that these measures undermine the economic, social and cultural rights of citizens. A Joint Statement The call by the EU mission to the United Nations on 7 July was effectively not to force a shutdown. The French government has also backed several United Nations resolutions that have condemned past internet outages.
“No authority should cut off or threaten to cut off people’s access to information, especially during a crisis. In times of turmoil, the internet can be a lifeline and should be a priority for governments, not a pawn for manipulation,” Pilkova said.