The French National Assembly passed a law Wednesday that will strengthen the national position against online hate speech by fining social media companies if they do not delete certain content such as terrorism, child pornography and genocide denial within one to 24 hours of its posting. Additionally, this law strengthens the ability of the French government to fine social media platforms and increases the size of fines.
The passage of this law follows similar measures in nations such as Ethiopia and Germany. Under its provisions, websites can be fined between €250,000 and €1.25 million for allowing hate speech to remain on their platform, although the method of enforcement has yet to be determined.
Some critics believe that this law grants the French government too much power in censoring free speech online. Jordan Bardella, French Member of European Parliament, noted in a press release [in French] that “the obligation to remove any ‘manifestly illegal’ content … will have the foreseeable effect of automatic and a priori censorship of content by platforms without justice being able to to judge whether or not it is actually illegal. The freedom of expression and the French public debate will thus be put in the hands of private platforms.”
A National Assembly press release following the law’s passage notes that these new rules will “strengthen the contribution of digital operators in the fight against certain manifestly hateful content online […] and create specialized prosecution and jurisdiction to fight hate content on the internet.”