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France’s regulation department Arcom is the new threat to online speech in the country

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At the beginning of the year, France created a new internet watchdog by combining the anti-piracy agency Hadopi and the audiovisual regulator CSA. The new agency is called Arcom, is a new censorship force in the country, and has started its work this week.

“In 2021, the landscape has changed considerably with new very powerful players, in particular subscription streaming platforms, social networks,” explained Arcom’s president Roch-Olivier Maistre, who has been the CSA boss since 2019.

He added, “ This was accompanied by important phenomena such as the development of pirating, false information, the phenomenon of online hatred.”

Arcom will handle piracy and adopt “a new approach” against illegal streaming websites. With the new powers, Maistre said that the agency “will draw up lists of illegal sites in conjunction with the beneficiaries.” He added that Arcom will handle sports piracy by allowing event organizers to “take urgent legal action to block sites that broadcast illegally.”

Social media, video sharing platforms, and any online site with more than 5 million unique visitors every month will also fall under Arcom’s regulatory scope. The watchdog will monitor how these platforms are fighting “misinformation,” “hate speech” and protecting minors.

The new watchdog will also monitor traditional media. It will “remain faithful to its principles,” including being “ first and foremost the guarantor of freedom of communication,” according to Maistre.

The agency has been revamped to “avoid having a simple juxtaposition of the old CSA and the old Hadopi within the new structure.” It has 355 agents, and its college has been increased from seven to nine.

Arcom has a budget of €46.6 million. Maistre said, because of the increased scope, “from 2023, we will ask for a reinforcement of the means.”

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