France opts for shutting down, censoring social media over protests
Macron accuses the youth in France of using social media platforms to encourage and organize nationwide protests.
French President Emmanuel Macron said enforcing social media blackouts and censoring posts should remain an option "when things get out of hand” in the country.
Macron accused the youth of using platforms such as TikTok and Snapchat to organize protests across France after a teenager was shot by police in a Paris suburb last week.
“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," Macron stated.
“Above all, we shouldn’t do this in the heat of the moment and I’m pleased we didn’t have to,” 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,” the President continued.
Macron's remarks sparked wide criticism, including by heads of political parties, accusing him of violating the rights of citizens.
The French President asked social media companies last week to maintain a “sense of responsibility” and remove posts deemed sensitive by the government, especially those calling for or recording violent protests.
French ministers met with representatives of TikTok and Snapchat last Friday to try and push the platforms to prohibit content showing footage of the protests or supporting them.
Justice Minister Éric Dupond-Moretti said the following day that legal action would be taken to identify users promoting the protests and put them on trial.
In a related context, French authorities on Wednesday probed the death of a man who may have been hit by a police rubber bullet during riots in Marseille, as the country counted the cost of its most intense urban violence in nearly two decades.
Prosecutors in Marseille, a southern port wracked by some of the worst clashes over the weekend, said a 27-year-old man riding a scooter had been found dead overnight Saturday to Sunday and was believed to have suffered a heart attack.
Prosecutor Dominique Laurens said he had opened an investigation into "a death involving the use of a weapon," with the victim suffering from a "violent shock" that appeared to be consistent with a projectile known as a "flashball".
If confirmed, the death would be the first reported during the week-long riots, which were sparked by the fatal police shooting of a 17-year-old teenager of North African origin during a traffic stop in a suburb west of Paris last Tuesday.
This 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 overnight protests roamed the country in all its corners.
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 in a yellow Mercedes.
On Thursday, Macron called for an early morning crisis meeting of his ministers and urged calm. He branded the overnight clashes "unjustifiable" and told the meeting the "last few hours have been marked by scenes of violence against police stations, but also schools and town halls... against institutions and the Republic."
In 2005, France saw similar riots after the death of two African teens after a police chase.
A government advisor told AFP that "there are all the ingredients for another explosion potentially."