French court says Twitter must reveal measures to tackle online hate speech

A court in Paris has ordered that social media giant Twitter must reveal the steps in will implement to tackle hate speech online after anti-discrimination groups launched a legal case.

Twitter has come under fire for not doing enough to moderate hate speech online.
Twitter has come under fire for not doing enough to moderate hate speech online. A French court has ordered the social media giant to reveal the steps it will take to tackle the problem. (Photo by Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP)

A Paris court on Thursday ruled that Twitter must reveal its measures for fighting hate speech, in one of several cases thrashing out whether the French justice system has jurisdiction over the US social media giant.

Ireland-based Twitter International had appealed a July decision ordering it to share documents and details about its French moderation team and data on their activities against hate speech.

That case had been brought by several anti-discrimination groups over what they said was the company’s longstanding failure to properly moderate posts.

The appeals court on Thursday confirmed the first judgement and further ordered Twitter to pay €1,500 to the groups, including SOS Racisme, SOS Homophobie and the International League against racism and anti-Semitism (Licra).

In another Paris case, three victims of terrorist attacks who have suffered online harassment are suing Twitter France.

They argue it was the company’s fault that their cases against their harassers failed, as it did not provide identifying information that investigators had asked for.

In that case, Twitter France chief Damien Viel told a court last week that “I’m in charge of Twitter’s business development and nothing more”.

Providing data to the authorities was “up to the good will of Twitter International, which is outside French jurisdiction and can decide whether to cooperate or not,” his lawyer Karim Beylouni added.

In still another case in Versailles, just outside Paris, Twitter France has said it is unable to comply with a police request for information on people who sent insults and threats to a public official.

The local office says it does not store any information, with all data handled by the group’s European mothership based in Ireland.

But prosecutors have asked for fines as high as 75,000 euros against both Twitter France and manager Viel personally.

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Is France’s plan for nationwide high-speed internet by 2025 on track?

France launched a high-speed internet plan nearly a decade ago aiming to ensure fast connection times for everyone throughout urban and rural areas by 2025, becoming the first European country to do so. So how is that going so far?

Protruding wires in a French data centre.
Protruding wires in a French data centre. The government wants all French households to have high-speed internet by 2025. (Photo by ALAIN JOCARD / AFP)

During the pandemic high-speed internet has become more important than ever before. Increasing numbers of people are working remotely and Covid restrictions and infections have left many spending nights and days in watching Netflix. 

“Digitalisation has allowed our economy to resist the health crisis,” wrote Jean Castex

Three out of four French people say that the roll out of high-speed should be a priority for the government. And many in the rural France in particular complain about slow connection speeds.

In a bid to address this problem, the Plan France Très Haut Débit (French high-speed internet plan) was launched back in 2013. 

Backed with state financing to the tune of €3.57 billion, its purpose was to install digital infrastructure to ensure that everyone in France has access to high-speed internet by 2025.

Key to this process is the deployment of fibre optic cables. Once put installed in a geographical area or directly in individual houses, this technology can send information at 70 percent the speed of light – in other words, it can allow you to load articles on The Local France at a phenomenal pace. 

So how exactly is this mission going? 

Currently, two thirds of French households have access to high-speed internet, although these tend to be concentrated on urban areas.

MAP When will my part of France get high-speed internet

The French government says that the country has installed more fibre-optic cables than any of its neighbours.  Six million extra households gained access to high-speed internet, thanks to these cables, in 2020 alone. That year, the government invested a further €570 million on top of the Plan France Très Haut Débit spending to speed up the roll out. 

The rate at which households are gaining access to high-speed internet is four times faster than in 2015. 

This graphic shows the rate at which households are gaining access to fibre optic cabling that ensures quick internet access. The different colours correspond to the number of households gaining access during different quarters of the year Q1, Q2 etc. Source: Agence Nationale de Cohésion des Territoires

In a report about the Plan France Très Haut Débit published in August 2021, Castex said “In three years, the digital divide has largely receded.” 

But a graphic in that same paper revealed there wasn’t égalité across France and that some parts of the country did still enjoy better access to fibre optic cables than others. 

In the dark green zones, which include Paris, Yvelines, Essone and Val d’Oise were more than 90 percent covered by fibre optic connections in 2021. 

But many départements had a fibre optic coverage of less than 30 percent including: Landes, the Dordogne, Ardèche, the Hautes-Alpes, Savoie, Creuse, Vendée, the Côtes d’Armor, Orne, Yonne, Nièvre, Haute Saône and Jura. 

A map shows how much access different French départements have to fibre optic connection. The darker the green, the faster the internet. Source: Agence Nationale de Cohésion des Territoires

The government want to expand fibre optic coverage to 80 percent by the end of this year. It has made an extra €150 million available from the “France Relance” initiative – a broad economic programme set up in 2020 to help the country bounce back from the economic fall out of the Covid-19 pandemic – to help achieve this. 

Ariase, an internet service provider in France, estimates that if the deployment of fibre optic cables continues to accelerate, the government will surpass its target and bring high speed internet to 87 percent of households by the end of 2022

If you live in an area that is connected via fibre optic cables, you do of course still need to pay a subscription to an internet provider to be able to surf the web. 

When will my area install fibre-optic cables? 

You can check when fibre-optic cables will be installed in your area via an interactive map made by the ARCEP, France’s electronic communications authority. 

When using the map, you can should on the “Modes de vue” box on the righthand side. Then click “Avancé” and select “Vue prévisionnelle des déploiements fibre.”

This allows you to see whether the installation of cable is complete, began in 2021 or whether it will begin in 2022 or 2023. 

Other internet policies 

The government categorises some 13 million French people a “distanced from digitalisation” – in other words, technologically illiterate. It allocated a budget of €250 million in 2021 to help people better grasp how to use the internet. 

Part of this budget has gone on a scheme called “Aidants Connectin which social workers and other government employees give tutorials, some of which are in-person, to help people struggling to complete administrative tasks online. The initial series of trainings has now passed but more might become available. If you are interested in receiving training, you should sign up to the newsletter via the form at the bottom of this page, to receive alerts if new slots become available.

In terms of mobile coverage, the country is doing much better and the regional differences are far less pronounced. 

The government launched a “Mobile New Deal” in January 2018, in conjunction with telecoms companies, which saw thousands more areas gain access to 4G internet. More than 97 percent of the French population now live in 4G zones.

As part of the Mobile New Deal Initiative, many mobile operators, including Orange and SFR now offer 4G internet boxes and fixed tarif in areas where fibre optic connection internet connection is limited. Once these boxes are installed, you will be able to use WiFi generated by 4G signal.