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France's parliament votes on law to protect childrens' images online

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France's parliament votes on law to protect childrens' images online
The US social network Instagram's logo on a tablet screen. (Photo by Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP)

French MPs have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a new bill that would provide a stronger 'right to privacy' for children, introducing more stringent rules for parents who share images of their children online.

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France's Assemblé Nationale voted in favour of a bill protecting children's image rights on Monday.

The representative who put the law forward, Bruno Studer from President Macron's Renaissance Party, told Le Monde that the goal was to "make parents be responsible" and "show minors that their parents do not have an absolute right on their image". More broadly, the bill aims to protect children from parents excessively sharing their image "without restraint".

Despite the recently tense climate in France's parliament due to ongoing debates over pension reform, this bill was voted on unanimously, with the next step being examination by the Senate.

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The vote comes as France's Assemblé Nationale continues examinations of another bill related to children's rights online - creating more stringent age verification and parental consent apparatuses for children using social networks under the age of 15. 

What does the bill entail?

The bill would expand on France's existing privacy laws and the idea of a vie privée (private life). Under the purview of parental authority and responsibilities, the law would make it so that parents have a duty to respect their child's private life. 

READ MORE: CCTV, drones and online cookies: How France’s strict privacy rules work

By extension, it aims to build upon the 'right to one's own image' for the child, stating that it must be respected by both parents, while also taking into account the opinion of the child.

Should the parents disagree, then the text (as it is currently written) would allow for a judge to potentially prohibit one parent from publishing or posting any content without the other's authorisation.

In the most serious cases - where there is "injury to the child's dignity" - the law could allow for a judge to be entrusted with the image rights for the child. 

It is worth noting that the law as it currently stands has not yet passed, and will likely go take on amendments in the Senate before being in its final form.

As things currently stand, children do have image rights, though these are more-so focused on non-parental authorities posting or sharing pictures. For example, in order for a newspaper (even a school newspaper) to share a child's image, they must have the express, written permission from a parent or legal guardian.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Just how strict are France’s privacy laws?

France also has regulations related to 'child influencers' - such as receiving authorisation from the French labour inspectorate for posting images and videos where a child under the age of 16 is the main subject and there is an intent to earn money. 

When it comes to adults, France also has a pre-existing 'right to your own image'. For members of the public (ie not celebrities or high-profile politicians), it is required in most cases to get consent before sharing images or videos that are identifiable, unless the publication is in the public interest or if the person is pictured as part of a large crowd, for example at a demonstration.

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The issue with situation 'sharenting' 

According to reporting by Le Monde, the issue of 'sharenting' - parents publishing sensitive content about their children on social media - has become more common in recent years.

The bill cited the figure that before a child in France reaches the age of 13, they will have appeared in, on average, 1,300 photographs published online.

The issue also extends into darker areas - the Assemblé's law asserted that "over half of the photographs exchanged on child sexual exploitation forums were initially published by the child's parents on their own social media networks".

France's Minister of Justice, Eric Dupond-Moretti, expressed support for the bill, saying that posting images of minors online could also have other repercussions, such as "cyber-stalking" or impacting a child's future credibility when applying for scholastic or professional opportunities.

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