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What you should know about France's new online hate speech bill

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What you should know about France's new online hate speech bill
Photo: AFP

A member of the French government has proposed a new far-reaching law to tackle hate speech online - here is what it means for the social media giants like Facebook and Twitter, and their users.

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Laeticia Avia, a former lawyer who is a member of President Emmanuel Macron's La Republique en Marche party and party spokesperson on issues relating to hate speech has proposed the bill which will be debated in the National Assembly this week.

She has argued that just as shouting racist or homophobic abuse at someone in the street would not be tolerated, neither should it be online.

READ ALSO French MPs defy US and give green light to 'Facebook tax'


French MP Laetitia Avia s proposing the bill in parliament. Photo: AFP

Her bill proposes:

* Internet platform providers like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube must speed up their screening and removal of content that is discriminatory in nature or contains racial, national, religious, and sexual prejudice

* Social media platforms must remove such content within 24 hours of it being reported and must have a 'one button' system for users to report abuse of this nature

* Big tech companies will have to hire extra moderators who will properly screen such content

* If content is not removed within 24 hours, the companies will face fines of millions of euros - up to 4 percent of their global revenue in the worst cases.

The bill also proposes the creation of a public prosecution authority that specialises in hate speech or cyberbullying, to improve success rates of prosecution for this type of offence.

Macron's government has been at the forefront of attempting to make the big tech companies more socially responsible, and has had a private meeting with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on the subject.

In April, the French government passed an act bringing in a tax on internet firms nicknamed 'gafa' (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple) in spite of protests from the US government.

In 2018, 36 million French people were recorded as actively using Facebook, approximately 10 million of whom were between 25 and 34 years old.

If Avia's bill passes through the National Assembly, it will then have to move on to the French Senate for further debate.

If successful, France will be following in the footsteps of Germany, which has recently introduced strict controls on hateful content online.

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