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France “hate speech” bill passes with massive support from lawmakers

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France passed a new law against “hate speech” on Tuesday. According to this new law, social media networks will have to remove any hateful or offensive content from their platform within 24 hours. Failing to do so may attract fines up to 1.25 million Euros.

Laetitia Avia, the lawmaker who drafted the “hate speech” bill expressed that “hate speech” online was a public health issue and that “the vast majority of French people have seen or experienced” it. She also added that the government must ensure that people, especially the vulnerable ones are safe and protected.

The bill received huge support in the lower house of parliament as nearly 434 MPs voted in favor while only 33 were against it; other 69 MPs decided to stay abstained.

Minister of Digital Affairs Cedric O said that the state’s top priority should be protecting the citizens both online and offline. He also spoke about how social media companies had to set up robust moderation systems.

According to this new law, the government will play a supervisory role and the social media platforms will have to enforce the necessary actions against “hate speech” and offensive content.

It was reported that the MPs had spent a long time debating over what topics could be deemed hateful and what couldn’t be.

As of now, they had agreed on including content condoning crimes against humanity as “hate speech”. Other aspects are still under consideration and it looks like the MPs have a long way to go in terms of bifurcating things under “hate speech”. It was found that an amendment exists to open a list of hateful things that must be taken down under 24 hours.

Several tech and social media giants such as Google and Facebook had enforced severe crackdowns against “hate speech” online. After getting to know about the new “hate speech” law passed in France, Facebook questioned the government pointing out the fact that the 24-hour window was unrealistic and that the posts require a careful assessment from a legal standpoint.

While the French government finds this law as an indispensable measure to battle online “hate speech”, it must also be understood that such a law will blur the lines between providing protection against hate-speech and censorship of free speech.

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