Really Bad Ideas: French President Macron Wants To Ban 'Fake News' During The Election

from the now-define-it dept

French President Emmanuel Macron was held up by some in the tech industry as a moderate who “got technology” leading up to his election. And yet, every time he seems to weigh in on tech related issues, it’s with an absolutely terrible take on it. He wanted to mandate encryption backdoors and demand internet censorship of “radicals” online who post “inflammatory content.” And now he’s expanding that position and saying he wants to ban “fake news” during election season.

In his new year?s speech to journalists at the &?Eacute;lys&?eacute;e palace, Macron said he would shortly present the new law in order to fight the spread of fake news, which he said threatened liberal democracies.

New legislation for websites would include more transparency about sponsored content. Under the new law, websites would have to say who is financing them and the amount of money for sponsored content would be capped.

For fake news published during election seasons, an emergency legal action could allow authorities to remove that content or even block the website, Macron said. ?If we want to protect liberal democracies, we must be strong and have clear rules,? he added.

The transparency idea isn’t such a bad one (though the details would matter quite a bit), but it’s unclear why the amount of money for sponsored content should be capped if it’s clearly labeled and disclosed. But the really troubling part is that last one, allowing for “emergency legal action” to remove content. It may not be surprising that Macron is saying this about fake news — since there were reports of a burst of fake new campaigns that tried to influence the French electorate to vote against Macron in the election.

But, as we’ve discussed many, many times — the idea of government-mandated censorship, even if for the idea of stopping “fake news” is a terrible idea. It will be abused and abused badly. Remember, while the term “fake news” was first popularized by people who were upset about Donald Trump’s election, he’s now co-opted the term and uses it to argue that any media report that makes him look bad is “fake news.” Imagine what a Trump or a French Trump-like figure would do with this kind of power?

A big part of the problem, obviously, is that “fake news” means different things to different people, and whoever has the power to order such content taken down will have plenty of opportunities to abuse that power — such as to take down news that is merely unflattering to those in power. Or, even on a more subtle level, what if an unflattering story has a few small errors or misrepresentations. Claim “fake news” and make it disappear. This eagerness of so many to immediately leap to “censor it!” as the only possible response to propaganda is highly troubling — and most certainly goes against the French ideals of freedom.

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Comments on “Really Bad Ideas: French President Macron Wants To Ban 'Fake News' During The Election”

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61 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Macron is an inherited 1-percenter and a globalist. -- And none too popular in France now he's been found out.

There’s no contradiction that Trump railed at actual fake news and that Macron now uses the term to try and suppress Truth.

Nope, NO contradiction at all: globalists attacked Trump, and now a known globalist is trying to leverage the outrage and turn to advantage.


SAY, speaking of fake news: did you miss NYTimes attempt last week to re-work the Trump-Russia allegations?

And more importantly, do you NOW recognize that the "Trump-Russia collusion" you ran here for months was all fabricated? Or are you still claiming that’s NOT fake?

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Macron is an inherited 1-percenter and a globalist. -- And none too popular in France now he's been found out.

Trump railed at actual fake news

Railed in favor of. Repeated often.

globalists attacked Trump

On what globe is Trump not a globalist? This is a guy with business holdings and ties all over the world. He’s one of the top globalists out there. His White House team has been filled with globalists from Goldman Sachs, Exxon, etc. and folks with ties to other governments.

do you NOW recognize that the "Trump-Russia collusion" you ran here for months was all fabricated?

It would help if the evidence for that collusion didn’t keep growing. Or, you know, if even his campaign CEO and post election chief strategist and national security advisor wasn’t now throwing the "treason" word around.

Where have you been for the last year and a half?

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Re: Macron is a geek, a moronic little freak, an annoying pipsqueak with an unfortunate physique

On what globe is Trump not a globalist?

The one where "globalist" is a dog-whistle euphemism for "Jew".

(Macron is not, to the best of my knowledge, Jewish, but he is a former investment banker, which presumably is close enough for our alt-right friend here.)

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Macron is an inherited 1-percenter and a globalist. -- And none too popular in France now he's been found out.

There are multiple possible answers, ranging from “because he expressed positive sentiments toward them and so they had reason to think he would improve relations and withdraw sanctions” through “because they had influence with/over him and thought they could control US policy towards them by that channel” to “they weren’t trying to get him elected, they were just trying to weaken (the public image of and trust in) US democratic institutions, because the weaker those are the more easily Russia can claim that its own authoritarian and alternative models are just as good or better”.

We don’t have enough information to know for certain which (if any) of these is correct, but there are certainly enough possible reasons available that an implied argument of “they had no reason to want to do what they’re accused of doing” doesn’t fly.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Macron is an inherited 1-percenter and a globalist. -- And none too popular in France now he's been found out.

"because he expressed positive sentiments toward them and so they had reason to think he would improve relations"

In other words exactly the same kind of reasons as the US has when it meddles in other peoples elections.

https://www.channel4.com/news/factcheck/americas-long-history-of-meddling-in-other-countries-elections

So my message to the US would be "live with it – you do it yourself so don’t be surprised when someone does it to you"

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 If you don't want to hear the answer, don't ask the question.

You asked why Russia would want to see Trump elected, they answered, and instead of pointing out any flaws or problems with their answer to show why they were wrong, you immediately pivoted to ‘Yeah, but what about the US!’

That was practically a textbook perfect example of Whataboutism as Thad pointed out, and made clear that you asked the question rhetorically at best, as you didn’t seem to want an answer.

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re: Macron is an inherited 1-percenter and a globalist. -- And none too popular in France now he's been found out.

Why would the Russians have an interest in getting Trump elected?

You mean aside from Trump’s links to Russian money laundering, an interest in weakening and isolating the US, and the seemingly obvious question of whether Putin would prefer the candidate who keeps praising him or the one who keeps criticizing him? No idea.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Macron is an inherited 1-percenter and a globalist. -- And none too popular in France now he's been found out.

Trump has business links in many countries

http://time.com/4629308/donald-trump-business-deals-world-map/

It would be very surprising if the only one that was dodgy was the Russian one – or maybe all those other countries intervened in the election too.

And by the way the existence of these dodgy Russian oligarchs is a direct consequence of the US attempt to turn Russia into an extreme capitalism experimental laboratory during the 90’s.

What goes around comes around.

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Macron is an inherited 1-percenter and a globalist. -- And none too popular in France now he's been found out.

All correct, and now we know why the Russians were so keen to see Trump elected.

Yes, America does it too. The reason the Russians were so damn successful is due to partisanship dividing the nation and siloing the news. I’m not even joking, the “Conservatives” have their own bespoke news provided by Fox and Sinclair media services.

Now if I were a foreign state actor wishing to weaken a nation by turning neighbour against neighbour and family members against each other, how would I do it?

Tough one, innit?

Blow-back says:

Re: Macron is an inherited 1-percenter and a globalist. -- And none too popular in France now he's been found out.

I know, fake news is so irritating! I can’t wait until the Republicans pass a law against fake news. That way, the next time the Democrats own the presidency, we can ban irritating fake news comments just like yours!

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Macron is an inherited 1-percenter and a globalist. -- And none too popular in France now he's been found out.

In fact if you read the Guardian article I linked to you will see that Macron is to Trump as a squirrel is to a rat.

http://stone-junction.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/technical-PR-and-branding.html

Except that in this case the PR is getting thin.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re:

_"French Trump-like figure"

He/she is called Le Pen._

Except that Le Pen’s economic policies are actually closer to Bernie Sanders than Trump, protect France’s 35 hour week and early retirement and Macron’s economics have turned out to be quite similar to Trump, tax breaks for the rich and cuts in public spending.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Do you mean trump and Macron, Trump and Le Pen or Macron and Le Pen?

Problem is that politics is not a one dimensional thing – and as Bill Clinton pointed out the economy tends to trump other issues.

Macron is socially liberal and internationalist – but he is also a right wing technocrat economically.

Le Pen leads a party that has historically been xenophobic maybe even racist, although she would deny that that opinion survives fairly vociferously – after all she did expel her own father from the party in order to make the point. However economically she is left wing and quite socialist.

Drew_Wilson (profile) says:

My Thoughts On This

I have my own thoughts on the matter. One point I’ve made is the fact that, even if you support the idea of stamping out fake news, the judicial oversight being floated will always be playing catchup because there is going to be a lag between when a story is published and when a complaint is processed. That window of time between allows the “fake news” to be spread.

That’s just one of the many thoughts I have on this.

There are a lot of technical hurdles this proposal doesn’t address that I can see. It’s interesting that Mike was able to at least touch on a few of them towards the end of his piece.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: My Thoughts On This

Solution: require only journalists publish news. Only people who publish news the government likes are journalists, so anyone publishing something else can immediately be thrown in jail for publishing without a license.

What counts as news? Anything the government says, obviously.

NOTE: I hope this is too extreme to ever be seriously proposed, but I’m losing faith in that…

JEDIDIAH says:

Re: Re: Define Fake News?

If you are lucky, “professional journalists” will tell you a half truth. That’s only if you are lucky. If you’re not lucky, what you are told is a fabrication that bears little resemblance to reality.

Media outlets have been distorting the news to fit a pre-set narrative and people were complaining about this before Trump came along.

It’s just a lot more obvious and blatant now.

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Define Fake News?

Back when Jon Stewart and his ilk used it of their own (comedic) programs, and when various people (including, I think, The Onion itself) used it to describe The Onion, it certainly did not mean that.

I’m also reasonably sure it didn’t have that meaning when Hillary Clinton used it in the post-election interview which seems to have given Donald Trump the idea to use the term, but I haven’t reviewed that interview recently enough to be sure about that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Define Fake News?

“Fake News”:

1. noun. A meme created by cabal news outlets to distinguish their lies from other lies.

2. noun. The ostensible assumption that information that isn’t in conformance with the consensus view of a small number of widely published corporate viewpoints, must be false simply because it fails to conform to those viewpoints.

3. noun. A nationalized contempt for science, in the form of popular arguments made by misinformed or corrupt persons.

Seegras (profile) says:

Do campaign promises the candidates don’t intend to hold onto when elected count as fake news?

Like "Macron has promised to boost France’s slow economic growth, battle high unemployment and promote competitiveness by reforming the labor market and simplifying the tax and pension systems." — which obviously in hindsight looks quite like fake news (even if he tried)…

Anonymous Coward says:

Power over internet

/ “whoever has the power to order such content taken down will have plenty of opportunities to abuse that power…” //

… so even government regulatory agencies and fairly elected heads-of-state will ultimately abuse any power they may acquire to control internet content ?

Power corrupts ? Somebody should write that down.

Anonymous Coward says:

What even would the legal definition of ‘fake news’ be? News that is demonstrably false? Does it have to be demonstrably false at the time of publication or does debunking after the fact count? Does something not newsworthy but true count as ‘fake news’ since it isn’t really news? Does news that is unverifiable, so potentially true or false, count? What about news that relies on witnesses or personal accounts that can’t be corroborated?

If it is going to become a legal issue, this needs to be understood before not after cases hit a judge.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Most often it means fabricated versions of events that do really happen. In other words it is lazy media who re-create something because reporting the real story is too hard.

On other occasions it can mean the faking of extra instances of (real) events in order to reinforce a point of view.

Note that in both cases the fake news has little trouble getting past a threshold of plausibility because reality has already prepared the ground

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