EU cracks down on social media platforms to support Paris
The European Union will introduce new laws to force social media platforms to shut down content that is considered illegal or harmful.
Popular social media platforms like TikTok and Snapchat might be forced to shut down by France under the European Union’s Digital Services Act (DSA), which regulates online content, if they fail to bring down content that Paris claims to be encouraging the mass protests, Commissioner Thierry Breton said Monday.
Breton's statement echoed the position of French President Emmanuel Macron, who stressed last week that enforcing social media blackouts and censoring posts should remain an option "when things get out of hand” in the country.
Macron's remarks sparked wide criticism, including by heads of political parties, accusing him of violating the rights of citizens.
Yet Paris is showing no signs of a limit on the measures it is willing to take to crack down on the public protests.
The French government on Saturday gave a green light for police forces to spy on citizens by remotely activating the camera, microphone, and GPS of their phones and other devices such as laptops, cars, and other connected objects, in an attack against civil liberties.
The devices would be activated to record sound and images of people allegedly suspected of terror offenses, delinquency, and organized crime. One particular section of the bill allows law enforcement to track the device's location if the owner is considered a suspect by the security agencies, without clarifying whether the process will be transparent to the public or even under the direct supervision of parliament.
Rights activists have condemned the measure as "an authoritarian snooper's charter". The digital rights group, La Quadrature du Net, stated that it raises serious concerns over the violation of fundamental civil liberties and decried it as part of a "slide into heavy-handed security".
“When there is hateful content, content that calls – for example – for revolt, that also calls for killing and burning of cars, they will be required to delete [the content] immediately,” Bretton said in the interview on France Info radio, citing the DSA, which will impose new restrictions on large platforms starting August 25.
“If they fail to do so, they will be immediately sanctioned. We have teams who can intervene immediately,” the commissioner said. “If they don’t act immediately, then yes, at that point we’ll be able not only to impose a fine but also to ban the operation [of the platforms] on our territory.”
The new EU laws will force all major social media sites, including Instagram, Twitter, and 17 other apps, to comply with new legal obligations to limit the spread of illegal and harmful online content as of August.
On the other hand, platforms with over 45 million users in the EU will be required to submit detailed reports to the Commission of their major risks for users. If they fail to do so, they can be penalized with up to 6 percent of their global revenue.
TikTok will be subjected to a "stress test" next week to assess its readiness to comply with the new laws, Breton added. While Twitter already underwent the test, Meta is expected to be tested later this month.
This all comes amid ongoing protests against the killing of 17-year-old Nahel Marzouk at the hands of police in Hauts-de-Seine on June 27, which left France in unrest as it sparked protests throughout the country.
Nahel was shot in the chest at point-blank range on Tuesday in the western region of Paris after he was pulled over for allegedly breaking traffic rules.
Explaining his position on closing down social media outlets last week, Macron accused the youth of using platforms such as TikTok and Snapchat to organize the nationwide protests.
“We need to think about how young people use social networks … when things get out of hand, we may have to regulate them or cut them off," he said during a meeting with 200 mayors whose municipalities witnessed angry protests.
“I think it’s a real debate that we need to have in the cold light of day."