France to tell Internet giants ‘help fight terror’

Ahead of a meeting in San Francisco with Internet giants like Facebook and Google, France's interior minister has told the firms to do more to help battle online terrorist propaganda.

France to tell Internet giants 'help fight terror'
French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve wants the likes of Facebook and Google to help fight terrorism. Photo: AFP

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve called on Thursday for better coordination in the fight against online "terrorist propaganda," asking Internet firms to cooperate against extremism.

Cazeneuve was speaking in Washington ahead of a trip Friday to San Francisco to meet with leaders of Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Twitter to urge them to share responsibility in fighting an extremist threat.

Militant Islamist attacks at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish deli killed 17 people in Paris in January.

The attacks sparked alarm in France and across Europe over fears of a growing and hard-to-combat terror threat.

"Today, terrorism is diffuse and 'open access,'" said the French minister on the last day of an international summit against extremist violence.

Videos of gruesome executions have been frequently distributed online by the Islamic State group as a propaganda tool.

More generally, calls to join violent jihad or methods to carry out "lone wolf" attacks are spread on social media by militants and their supporters.

Cazeneuve asked for partners from 60 countries to better coordinate their fight against extremism to create international norms in removing illegal content.

France already has a law allowing authorities to block websites that call for or glamorize terrorism. He noted laws against condoning crime and inciting terrorism have already been strengthened in the country.

Cazeneuve said he would ask the major companies of the online industry not to allow "the great area of freedom and growth" to become a "space of fanatic indoctrination."

"Facing terrorism, we need regulation and responsibility," he said.

Cazeneuve said he will ask the tech firms to withdraw "without delay" jihadist propaganda as soon as authorities report it.

Companies like Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Facebook can find solutions to censor dangerous content without affecting freedom of expression, Cazeneuve said.

"France is well placed to know the price that can be paid by those committed to freedom of expression," he said.

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US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks

US Vice President Kamala Harris and French Prime Minister Jean Castex laid wreaths at a Paris cafe and France's national football stadium Saturday six years since deadly terror attacks that left 130 people dead.

US vice president lays wreaths at site of 2015 Paris terror attacks
US Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff lay flowers after ceremonies at Le Carillon bar and Le Petit Cambodge restaurant, at which 130 people were killed during the 2015 Paris terror attacks. Photo: Sarahbeth Maney/POOL/AFP

The attacks by three separate teams of Islamic State group jihadists on the night of November 13, 2015 were the worst in France since World War II.

Gunmen mowed down 129 people in front of cafes and at a concert hall in the capital, while a bus driver was killed after suicide bombers blew themselves up at the gates of the stadium in its suburbs.

Harris, wrapping up a four-day trip to France, placed a bouquet of white flowers in front of a plaque honouring the victims outside a Paris cafe.

Castex attended a minute of silence at the Stade de France football stadium, along with Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, before laying wreaths at the sites of the other attacks inside Paris.

In front of the Bataclan concert hall, survivors and relatives of the victims listened to someone read out the names of each of the 90 people killed during a concert there six years ago.

Public commemorations of the tragedy were called off last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Last year we weren’t allowed to come and we all found it really tough,” said Bruno Poncet, who made it out alive of the Bataclan.

But he said the start of a trial over the attacks in September meant that those attending the commemoration this year felt more united.

‘Overcome it all’

“We’ve really bonded thanks to the trial,” he said. “During previous commemorations, we’d spot each other from afar without really daring to speak to each other. We were really shy. But standing up in court has really changed everything.”

The marathon trial, the biggest in France’s modern legal history, is expected to last until May 2022.

Twenty defendants are facing sentences of up to life in prison, including the sole attacker who was not gunned down by police, Salah Abdeslam, a French-Moroccan national who was captured in Brussels. Six of the defendants are being tried in absentia.

Poncet said he felt it was crucial that he attend the hearings. “I can’t possibly not. It’s our lives that are being discussed in that room, and it’s important to come to support the others and to try to overcome it all.”

Survivors have taken to the witness stand to recount the horror of the attacks, but also to describe life afterwards.

Several said they had been struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, grappling with survivor’s guilt, or even feeling alienated from the rest of society.

Saturday’s commemorations are to wrap up with a minute of silence at the Stade de France in the evening before the kick-off for a game between France and Kazakhstan.

It was during a football match between France and Germany that three suicide bombers blew themselves up in 2015.

Then-French president Francois Hollande was one of the 80,000 people in the crowd, before he was discreetly whisked away to avoid triggering mass panic.