French reveal loathing for ‘violent’ suburban youth

Nearly 60 percent of the French say they distrust youth from the 'banlieues', France's impoverished, immigrant-dominated suburbs, according to a new survey that has laid bare the country's divisions.

French reveal loathing for 'violent' suburban youth
Nozav/ Flats in one of the Paris banlieues

“The results are extremely worrying,” Thibault Renaudin, national secretary of Afev, the youth organisation which published the poll, told The Local.

“Youths from the banlieues already suffer from discrimination, unemployment, and this suspicion just adds their difficulties.”

A poll conducted by Afev shows that while 75 percent of the French have a positive opinion of young people, 57 percent have a negative opinion of youths from improverished suburbs. 

Banlieue youths are thought to break the rules, slip into petty crime and are viewed as violent and agressive. 

Renaudin says French authorities and the media are partly responsible for this negative image.

“These youths only get attention when problems of security are addressed,” says Renaudin, “but they also do good work that needs to be promoted.”

The poll also reveals older generations have failed to give youths decent opportunities. “The very independent generation from the 70s struggles to make room for these youths that have been hard hit by 20 years of crisis.”

76 percent of the French are aware that youths don’t have the same opportunities as their elders.

Renaudin says the poll also reveals French racial divisions, given that many banlieue youths are from immigrant backgrounds. “They are always reduced to their origins, multiple, different and dangerous.”

“If your name is Mohamed and you come from the banlieues, it’s very difficult to find a flat in Paris,” he says. “And that’s unacceptable in a powerful country like France.”

The organisation Afev says youths are misunderstood, have been ignored and suffer from a lack of attention. “They feel neglected, like orphans, and feel they don’t have a role to play in society.”

Afev also says France should be inspired by initiatives in Scandinavian countries and give pupils and students from the banlieues a second chance. “That’s the problem with France’s elitist system, if you don’t fall into the mould, you’re out for good,” says Renaudin, adding that children who drop out at age 12 aren’t given second chances in school. 

In the run-up to elections next month, presidential hopeful Socialist Francois Hollande has focused on youth initiatives, a “positive move”, says Renaudin. 

“But we don’t need any more promises, we’ve had that, now we need action.”

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French court orders Twitter to reveal anti-hate speech efforts

A French court has ordered Twitter to give activists full access to all its documents relating to efforts to combat racism, sexism and other forms of hate speech on the social network.

French court orders Twitter to reveal anti-hate speech efforts
Photo: Alastair Pike | AFP

Six anti-discrimination groups had taken Twitter to court in France last year, accusing the US social media giant of “long-term and persistent” failures in blocking hateful comments from the site.

The Paris court ordered Twitter to grant the campaign groups full access to all documents relating to the company’s efforts to combat hate speech since May 2020. The ruling applies to Twitter’s global operation, not just France.

Twitter must hand over “all administrative, contractual, technical or commercial documents” detailing the resources it has assigned to fighting homophobic, racist and sexist discourse on the site, as well as “condoning crimes against humanity”.

The San Francisco-based company was given two months to comply with the ruling, which also said it must reveal how many moderators it employs in France to examine posts flagged as hateful, and data on the posts they process.

The ruling was welcomed by the Union of French Jewish Students (UEJF), one of the groups that had taken the social media giant to court.

“Twitter will finally have to take responsibility, stop equivocating and put ethics before profit and international expansion,” the UEJF said in a statement on its website.

Twitter’s hateful conduct policy bans users from promoting violence, or threatening or attacking people based on their race, religion, gender identity or disability, among other forms of discrimination.

Like other social media businesses it allows users to report posts they believe are hateful, and employs moderators to vet the content.

But anti-discrimination groups have long complained that holes in the policy allow hateful comments to stay online in many cases.

French prosecutors on Tuesday said they have opened an investigation into a wave of racist comments posted on Twitter aimed at members of the country’s national football team.

The comments, notably targeting Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe, were posted after France was eliminated from the Euro 2020 tournament last week.

France has also been having a wider public debate over how to balance the right to free speech with preventing hate speech, in the wake of the controversial case of a teenager known as Mila.

The 18-year-old sparked a furore last year when her videos, criticising Islam in vulgar terms, went viral on social media.

Thirteen people are on trial accused of subjecting her to such vicious harassment that she was forced to leave school and was placed under police protection.

While President Emmanuel Macron is among those who have defended her right to blaspheme, left-wing critics say her original remarks amounted to hate speech against Muslims.