Who decides which content will trigger the threat “Remove this content within 24 hours or be fined into bankruptcy”?
This week the French Assembly passed a law, yet to go to the French Senate, threatening serious fines for “obviously illegal speech” that does not get removed from an internet platform within 24 hours. Further, the French Justice Ministry is now advocating removing free-press issues from their national press board (La Chambre de la Presse) into the criminal courts.
Here is the writ of the French Assembly’s bill:
“These include incitement to hatred, violence, racist or religious insults, apology for crimes against humanity, provocation to terrorism, harassment, procuring, and child pornography.
The platforms will also have to report on the “actions and means” implemented. The Higher Audiovisual Council (CSA) will ensure compliance with the duty of cooperation and may, in case of persistent failure, impose a penalty of up to 4% of annual worldwide turnover. If the platforms refuse to remove the contents, they will be punishable by one year’s imprisonment and a fine ranging from € 250,000 for individuals to € 1.25 million for a legal person.”
Germany passed essentially this same law, the Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz (NetzDG) at the end of June 2017 and it came into force in early October. I have seen one impact of it: The German Satire portal Allgemeine Morgenpost Rundschau folded rather than risk getting fined into bankruptcy. At present, the only items from AMR available on the web are the ones I have translated from German and posted here on FRN. (For a good time, go to our search box and enter “Allgemeine Morgenpost Rundschau.” Everything satirized there really really deserved it.)
It is getting worse: The French justice minister is proposing a substantive change in French press freedom, that will make it easier to imprison journalists, or whistle blowers. At present, France has a Chamber of the Press for dealing with alleged libel or fake news. Now the French Justice Minister is proposing to take such allegations from the Chamber of the Press to the criminal courts.
We might well ask the nature of the Press Chamber: Here it is [I translate from the French]:
It is composed of specialized magistrates, charged with effectuating the law on the freedom of the press of July 29, 1881 and the principles of defamation in French law, making it possible to find a compromise between the defense of the freedom of the press and the respect of the person.
Mission It must judge
the truth exception, consisting in providing evidence of the reported facts, or
the good faith exception in the right of the press, which does not suppose the proof of the truth of the facts, but supposes four criteria:
the words must be measured and cautious;
they must be accompanied by the absence of personal animosity;
they must pursue a legitimate aim;
they must be accompanied by the quality of the investigation
Boulevard Voltaire is under no illusions about the goal of this proposed legislation. In their appeal for petition signatures, they write:
Once again, the government’s objectives are clear:
– muzzle the disturbing media by having them arrested and sentenced for the slightest unauthorized speech
– prevent any opinion diverging from the official discourse to better control public opinion.
It is therefore urgent to oppose this project which would mean the end of freedom of the press in France!
But to get there we need you. Help us organize the counter-offensive to stop this reform project that would be dangerous for our fundamental freedoms if it were to get signed into law.
Here is Libertion‘s take on the plans of the French Justice Ministry: “Hell is paved with good intentions. Under the pretext of fighting against “hate speech” on the Internet, the government plans to remove the insult/defamation portion of the law of July 29, 1881 on the freedom of the press, and to bring these press offenses instead into the criminal courts. Announced by the Minister of Justice, Nicole Belloubet, and confirmed by the Minister of Culture, Franck Riester, this reform would be an extremely serious blow to the freedom of the press, guaranteed by this founding text of freedom of expression.
This is not a problem for the mainstream media, which self-censors as we have seen the New York Times, the fabulous “newspaper of record,” admit to clearing news stories with the government. It has been a problem for the social media: just today, Twitter has closed the account of Tulsi Gabbard’s sister. Tulsi, of course, is running on an anti-regime change war platform. Not a coincidence. The reader is doubtless aware of many like examples.