France’s new legislation dealing with online hate speech, that in July passed in the French National Assembly and is known as the “Avia Law” recently stumbled at the EU level, where it needs to be approved.
A lot of criticism has been directed at this draft law, described by many digital rights groups as going too far in appointing online platforms as arbiters of truth and allowed speech, imposing draconian deadlines for content deletion, and hefty fines. The European Commission has since officially asked France to delay the passing of the law.
And although the legislation has been officially proposed by MP Avia from President Emmanuel Macron’s ruling party, many observers believe it has the fingerprints of Macron himself all over it, as fits into the big picture of his policy of going after US tech giants under the guise of stomping out hate speech.
To understand the thinking behind this policy, and the scope of it, it’s enough to take a look at an address Macron made earlier in the year that has now surfaced on Twitter.
Macron demands Twitter report "hate speech offenders’ IP addresses to police so they can be arrested. pic.twitter.com/SRn9Jgu2D1
— Oh boy what a shot (@ohboywhatashot) December 3, 2019
In it, the president wants platforms such as Twitter to essentially become a part of the French law enforcement, by directly and swiftly cooperating with the police and the judicial system in identifying perceived perpetrators of hate speech.
Judging by Macron’s logic presented here, Twitter would neither need nor require any further proof than a police request to turn over its users’ IP addresses, so they can be arrested and put on trial.
There’s a sense of urgency here – Macron would like the process to be extremely fast-tracked – from identifying of a Twitter user’s real world identity, to their trial and sentencing. This general sentiment once again surfaces in the now troubled Avia Law, which requires online platforms to remove content that is designated as hate speech within 24 hours.
Macron’s extraordinary address – that sounds like it would suit a Chinese leader – makes the argument that anonymity on the internet has been made obsolete by the very fact platforms like Twitter have the ability to “help the judicial system and the police identify a person.”
Last but not least, Macron believes that online platforms have the responsibility “to make (hate speech) content disappear as soon as possible.”