France cracks down on illegal Facebook posts

Data released by Facebook this week shows that there's been a meteoric rise in the amount of posts France blocks. The country is also ranked fourth in the world for the number of government requests made for info on users.

France cracks down on illegal Facebook posts
Photo: AFP

The data was part of Facebook’s annual Government Requests Report, which lists the number of demands for information on Facebook users from each country.

In the first half of 2015 France, made 2,520 requests for data from 2,847 different users, as each demand can be for information from several accounts.

However, Facebook supplied the requested information in 42.5 percent of cases, meaning that over half were unjustified in the eyes of the social media giant.

That reflects a steep rise on the same period in 2014, when France made 1,547 requests for information.

The USA was the country that made the most requests for users’ information, with 17,577 applications for data on 26,579 accounts.

The UK made 3,384 requests for info on 4,489 users while in Germany the number was less than France  – 2,344 requests for information on 2,776 users.

Worldwide there were 41, 214 requests for data about Facebook users in the first six months of 2015, an 18 percent rise on the previous year.

Facebook says the vast majority of applications “relate to criminal cases such as robberies and kidnappings” and the social network says it has “strict processes in place to handle these government requests”.

Huge rise in amount of posts France blocks

When it comes to content being blocked in each country, France saw a mammoth rise in the first half of 2015.

In the second half of 2014, France asked for just 13 items of content to be removed because they were judged illegal, and in the six months previous to that it blocked only 22 posts.

But in the first half of 2015 that figure has risen to 295, meaning France was ranked third in the world..

Most of the content France asks to be blocked relates to the crimes of Holocaust denial, denial of crimes against humanity or a new law that has made it a criminal offence to glorify terrorism.

The steep rise in the amount of blocked content in France is believed to be linked to January’s Paris terror attacks and the fact that there were many reports of people taking to social media to express support for the terrorists.

Only India (15,155) and Turkey (4,496) had more illegal content blocked than France over the same period.

These figures don't include the vast amount of posts that Facebook blocks itself with the help of users and without the intervention of states.

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Facebook agrees with France to pay €106 million in back taxes

US social media giant Facebook on Monday said it had agreed with the French government to pay €106 million in back taxes for its French operations over a 10-year period from 2009, and to pay 50 percent more tax in the current year.

Facebook agrees with France to pay €106 million in back taxes
Many of the US digital giants have their EU headquarters in low-tax-regime countries. Photo: AFP

“We take our tax obligations seriously, pay the taxes we owe in all the markets in which we operate and work closely with tax administrations around the world to ensure compliance with all applicable tax laws and resolve any disputes,” a Facebook France spokesperson said in a statement.

The statement said that since 2018, Facebook changed its sales structure so that “income from advertisers supported by our teams in France is registered in this country”.

“This year we are paying €8.46 million in income tax, an increase of almost 50 percent compared to last year,” it said. 

“We have also entered into an agreement with the tax authorities covering the years 2009-2018, under which we will make a payment of €106 million.”

The payment by American digital giants of tax on revenues in the country in which they are accrued has been the subject of a longstanding conflict between France and the United States. 

Big EU countries say the so-called GAFA – Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon – are unfairly exploiting tax rules that let them declare profits in low-tax havens, depriving governments of a fair share of their fiscal payments.

Many of the US digital giants have their EU headquarters in low-tax-regime countries. 

The dispute between France and the United States on the digital giants' tax has escalated to the extent that the United States in July unveiled heavy import duties on France.

The office of US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer found France's digital services tax was discriminatory and “unfairly targets US digital technology companies,” and said it would impose punitive duties of 25 percent on $1.3 billion worth of French products.

But it will hold off on collecting the fees to allow time for the dispute to be resolved.

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In the meantime, France, Britain, Spain, Italy and others have imposed taxes on the largest digital companies.

US officials have slammed these moves as discriminating against American firms, and say any new levies should come only as part of a broader overhaul of international tax rules.

In January, 137 countries agreed to negotiate a deal on how to tax tech multinationals by the end of 2020, under the auspices of the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.