Politicians Queue Up To Make France's Proposed Law Against 'Hateful Content' Far, Far Worse
from the gag-that-ag-gag dept
The intent behind “ag-gag” laws is pretty evident. The aim is to prevent the general public learning about unsatisfactory or downright cruel conditions in which animals are kept by some farmers. Techdirt has been reporting on them for a number of years. Fortunately, US courts are increasingly throwing them out as unconstitutional. So far, ag-gag laws seems to be a US specialty, but that may be about to change. A new law under discussion in France would force online companies to remove “hateful content” from their networks within 24 hours. The journalist Marc Rees spotted a proposed amendment to the law that would define the following content as “hateful” (via Google Translate):
stigmatizing agricultural activities, breeding or sale of products from agriculture and livestock breeding and inciting acts of intrusion or violence vis-à-vis professionals of agriculture, livestock breeding and the processing and sale of products from these sectors
All these criminal acts are already repressed by the law. For example, death threats are handled in the penal code, with several years in prison and a fine of up to tens of thousands of euros. Ditto for the night intrusions, which can be assimilated to a violation of domicile
The only thing that this proposed amendment adds to the current law in France is the requirement for online services to take down posts that “stigmatize” farmers in some vague way — an ag-gag law, in other words.
Trying to turn proposed legislation against “hateful content” into an ag-gag law is just one example of how a bad idea is being made into a worse one. Other amendments have been put forward that would force online companies to remove within 24 hours “hateful” posts about physical appearance, disabilities, political opinions, mother tongue, cultural practices, and many other areas where feelings often run high (original in French, behind paywall). One amendment even wants an open list of “hateful” things that have to be taken down within 24 hours, so that new categories can be added in the future without needing to amend the legislation. It will be fun watching how French politicians fight among themselves over what should or shouldn’t be included from the long list of proposed additions. The danger is clearly that whatever the outcome, the harm to freedom of speech in France — and maybe beyond — will be even worse than critics of the new law feared.