'France’s tough new law against online hatred aims to wipe out racist and homophobic trolling on social networks and could be replicated across Europe, according to the politician spearheading it as she faces daily racist abuse on Twitter.
Laetitia Avia, a business lawyer who grew up in the low-income Paris banlieue suburbs where discrimination is rife, was hailed as a symbol of French diversity when she entered parliament for Emmanuel Macron’s centrist party in 2017.
But the daily racist abuse and death threats against her on social networks pushed her to draw up a law to stop trolls feeling they have “total impunity” for saying online what would be more easily prosecuted as hate speech in the street.
“We cannot tolerate on the internet what we won’t tolerate in the street,” Avia told the Guardian. “If you’re on a bus and someone gets up and shouts ‘Dirty black!’, everyone would ask the bus driver to remove that person from the bus. This law will mean that blatantly hateful content must be taken down from a social network site within 24 hours.”
The online hatred bill will be debated by the French parliament next week and could be fast-tracked into force in the autumn.
It states that hateful comments reported by users must be removed within 24 hours by platforms such as Twitter, Facebook or YouTube. This includes any hateful attack on someone’s “dignity” on the basis of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. If the social media platforms and tech companies do not comply, they will face huge fines of up to 4% of their global revenue. Penalties could reach tens of millions of euros. There will also be a new judiciary body to focus on online hate.
The bill is part of Macron’s drive to make France a frontrunner in the regulation of big social media platforms. He announced the planned crackdown on online hate at a dinner for Jewish groups last year, amid a rise of antisemitic acts in France, saying that hateful content online must be taken down fast and “all possible techniques” put in place to find the identities of those behind it.'
Read more: French online hate speech bill aims to wipe out racist trolling
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