The fight against online racism and antisemitism
On Thursday 20 September 2018, the Prime Minister, in the presence of the Minister of State for the Digital Sector, received the report by Laetitia Avia, MP, Karim Amellal, teacher and author, and Gil Taieb, Vice President of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France (CRIF), on reinforcing the fight against online racism and antisemitism.
Édouard Philippe confirmed to the authors of the report that the Government is supportive of a large number of their recommendations. This is the case, among others, for the following proposals:
- The desire to make the procedures for reporting illegal content clearer and simpler.
- The fixing of time limit for the removal of hate material.The 24-hour time limit proposed by the mission can be considered if it is accompanied by appropriate legal safeguards. The time limit could even be much shorter should it commence from a report by a public or approved authority, along the lines of the draft European regulation on terrorist content.
- The implementation of highly dissuasive financial penalties for operators who fail to meet their obligations regarding the removal of hate content.
Édouard Philippe also expressed his support for proposals aimed at making the judicial processing of racist and antisemitic offences online quicker and more efficient. It will be possible to lodge a complaint online as soon as the necessary technical developments are complete. The Government is open to the idea of simplifying the legal process so that the perpetrators of these offences can be punished more swiftly.
The Prime Minister has made three commitments with regard to methodology to ensure that work continues smoothly on this important subject:
- The report’s proposals need to be developed further within the context of the general meetings on the new digital regulations, launched a few weeks ago by the Minister of State for the Digital Sector, Mounir Mahjoubi, and which will be completed by the end of the year. This will ensure consistency of government guidelines on how the different categories of illegal content online should be treated.
- In 2019 the Government intends to propose to Parliament an amendment to the applicable law.
- The Interministerial Delegate for the Fight against Racism and Antisemitism is responsible for overseeing coordination of the follow-up to the report’s recommendations. The work must strike the right balance between a determined fight against hate speech and preserving freedom of speech.
The Prime Minister also reiterated the need to place this fight in a European context too. He has thus taken a keen interest in the report’s proposals for defining a “content accelerator” status in order to legally determine those operators whose activity is to feature, reference or rank online content – and who are, therefore, neither merely hosting service providers nor publishers. The Government supports a European initiative on this subject. This could be launched after the first step has been completed with the adoption of the European regulation on the removal of terrorist content – a matter on which the European Commission has just submitted a proposal, which the Government would like to commend.