French President Pushing 'Fake News' Bill That Would Demand Decisions From Judges In 48 Hours

from the 48-hours-or-your-violated-rights-are-free dept

France's government will likely be following Germany's into the halls of speech regulation infamy. Germany's new "hate speech" law backed 24-hour removal demands with hefty fines to ensure social media platform compliance. This has prompted proactive enforcement by Twitter and Facebook, resulting the removal of content that doesn't violate the law, along with the removal of satire's life support.

The French government is already eyeballing a carbon copy of this hate speech law. But it's willing to do Germany one better: it wants to regulate "fake news." This push comes from new president Emmanuel Macron, who's decided to make his personal beef with fake news a public concern. A false story about offshore accounts owned by Macron made its way around the internet during his presidential campaign, prompting him to declare war on "fake news" if he was elected.

He's been elected, and now appears to be abandoning the base that thought he would be less radical and more reasonable than many of his opponents.

Taking aim at so-called fake news, France’s Parliament on Thursday is set to begin debating a tough bill aimed at repressing phony news items, one pushed by President Emmanuel Macron amid criticism that it poses a potential threat to press freedom.

The measure would allow judges to block content deemed false during a three-month period preceding an election.

During elections, it appears normal speech protections will be disabled. And it will be France's court system doing the heavy lifting under duress. The law would force judges to make a call on suspected "fake news" within 48 hours of the government submitting its case. Forty-eight hours is a ridiculous turn time for judicial matters, which makes it extremely likely literal judgment calls will be blown and/or overblocking will occur.

This also allows the French government to make the initial declaration of a news item's veracity. Forty-eight hours is barely enough time to read the government's case and pass a judgment, much less provide any due process to those accused of faking their news. Anyone who can't find something wrong with the general idea of a government declaring certain speech bogus and placing it before a judge with ticking time is either a budding authoritarian or Emmanuel Macron.

Unfortunately for Macron, the not-so-very-enlightened president is going to have a hard time shoving this terrible idea down parliament's throat. He's getting shot from both sides during his push to harm free speech protections and journalists.

[I]n heated exchanges in parliament on Thursday, members of the rightwing Les Républicains party accused Macron of trying to create a “thought police” that threatened freedom of expression. The leftwing France Insoumise party warned of a new kind of censorship and cautioned against a hasty, unnecessary and ineffective law against an ill-defined concept of fake news.

France's culture secretary said these fears were overblown as was any perceived attack on journalists. But the law Macron is pushing would do exactly what the culture secretary denies it will do. Supposedly "professional media" won't be targeted. But how can that statement possibly be true?

Social networks would also have to clearly state who was sponsoring content. The law would also give the French media regulator new powers to remove broadcasters’ rights to air content in France if it is deemed to be deliberately fake or implausible. Foreign broadcasters could be taken off air if they were deemed to be attempting to destabilise France, a measure taken to be aimed at Russian state-backed outlets.

Even if the culture secretary is to be believed, this just means the government will decide who is or isn't a journalist after the law is passed -- most likely on a case-by-case basis that allows it to target those perceived of being less able to challenge a judicial determination. Journalism isn't something only big name news agencies do. Plenty of amateurs engage in journalism and it will be those without privilege or access who can most easily be silenced by the government's "fake news" accusations.


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  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 13 Jun 2018 @ 10:00am

    They love to pretend it is perfectly easy to spot & take care of... yet they demand others do it for them.
    Perhaps they need to stop making others responsible for their pipe dreams & learn how hard it is to do what they imagine is simple.

    This isn't something you can just pass a law & declare fixed.

    It isn't fair to demand that a platform follow some magical nebulous rules that boil down to 'you'll know it when you see it' & when you screw up you owe us fscktons of cash for not doing the impossible. Notice how all of the punishment is on the platform and not the posters, perhaps personal accountability needs to make a come-back world wide, rather than those with the most money are responsible.

    The problem isn't the platforms, the problem is how people are using them. You wouldn't demand money from Renault if someone driving one of their cars is speeding, how is it that on the internet everything is the platforms fault & not the posters?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Aaron Walkhouse (profile), 13 Jun 2018 @ 1:31pm

      The result of Macron's 48-hour censorship is obvious:

      The first judge this law is aimed at waits two days to rule that
      48 hours is not enough time to research and adjudicate the facts
      and dismisses without leave to appeal because, obviously, 48 hours
      will never be enough to distinguish unwanted facts from fake news.

      Any attempt to prevent a judge from adjudicating lawfully will
      always be slapped down loudly enough to be heard nationwide.

      Judicial independence asserted, precedent set, law nullified. ‌ ‌ ‌ ;]

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jun 2018 @ 10:04am

    guillotine mentality still prevails in France

    They might call it "fake news" but it's really more like "forbidden news" since saying factually accurate things can still get a person severely punished. Even high-ranking politicians can easily run afoul of French law, especially those deemed to be on the "wrong side" of politics.

    What ever happened to France's Marine Le Pen, who a few months after losing the presidential election to Macron, was criminally charged with making a forbidden tweet -- 3 years ago -- and facing 3 years in prison if convicted?

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/mar/01/marine-le-pen-charged-for-posting-violent-is is-images-on-twitter

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That Anonymous Coward (profile), 13 Jun 2018 @ 11:52am

      Re: guillotine mentality still prevails in France

      Such a shame... they have worse punishments for "forbidden news" that their President violating copyrights multiple times for personal gain.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jun 2018 @ 11:03am

    So I am guessing this will happen 3 months before election:

    Macron : "I have always referred to this kind of misleading journalism as False Reports and never as Fake News. As such we demand that these false reports about me trying to censor everyone be removed from the entire internet. Any article, film clip, or other that claims that I have ever called it Fake News is a false report and must also be removed"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Rekrul, 13 Jun 2018 @ 11:25am

    Will the average person also be able to submit fake news claims? If so, many France's citizens should report the politicians' claims as fake news.

    Oh who am I kidding? Probably 90% of the people will think outlawing "fake news" is a wonderful idea. :(

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ScottDeagan (profile), 13 Jun 2018 @ 11:30am

    To hell with such laws

    It will be a cold day in hell before I self-censor. Macron probably does have hidden foreign bank accounts, he just doesn't want people talk about it.

    The guy married his grandma (at least someone old enough to be his grandma). Says all I need to know about "...Macwon...".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Jun 2018 @ 4:54pm

      Re: To hell with such laws -- YOU'D BE RIGHT AT HOME, ZOMBIE!

      Routine glances for zombies, then... I. Nearly. Plotzed!

      Another RECORD! -- EIGHT YEARS THREE MONTHS since the second of THREE COMMENTS! -- Back for two sentences!

      NO WAY that's a real person. (Try again, "nasch"!) EIGHTH that has over SIX YEAR GAP.

      While Masnick is going on about a suspicious coffee mug!

      You fanboys ask why I'm here? NO OTHER SITE HAS SUCH HOOTS!

      (I AM running out of astonishment, though. FITS my view of Techdirt as dis-information.)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Mike Masnick (profile), 13 Jun 2018 @ 5:31pm

        Re: Re: To hell with such laws -- YOU'D BE RIGHT AT HOME, ZOMBIE!

        I'm curious: you keep posting these claims of us reviving dormant accounts, which is ludicrous. But, assuming you were right: why? Why would it make sense to revive a dormant account, rather than just create a new one? What possible good could it do it revive an account?

        As for what's actually happening: most readers of the site lurk, not comment. That's it. So if they comment rarely, it's not a conspiracy. It's just how normal people use the site.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 13 Jun 2018 @ 5:49pm

          Re: Re: Re: To hell with such laws -- YOU'D BE RIGHT AT HOME, ZOMBIE!

          Why would it make sense to revive a dormant account, rather than just create a new one? What possible good could it do it revive an account?

          Same reason why horse with no name/Whatever/MyNameHere/Just Sayin', at one point, claimed that Prenda Law was an invention of anti-copyright freetards, because obviously nobody would defend or enforce copyright in such an underhanded way and get caught doing it.

          Because it's fucking dumb logic.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Wendy Cockcroft, 15 Jun 2018 @ 2:34am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: To hell with such laws -- YOU'D BE RIGHT AT HOME, ZOMBIE!

            Just imagine for a moment that any member of the team would take time out from writing articles to revive dormant accounts... Okay, why? Astroturfing? There are examples of that on the FCC's website where actual astroturfing took place using the names of people who didn't agree with the positions they allegedly expressed. Assuming that the team here does the exact same thing, how come nobody has popped up to complain that their identities are being hijacked in order to... I dunno, fill up the comments section?

            Only in your wildest delusions would a blog writer take time out from writing articles to post comments using somebody else's identity.

            As for dormant accounts, I've tried several times to get mine revived and it hasn't happened. I suspect it's because my requests were buried beneath the torrent of emails the staff here receive every day. No biggie, I can post anonymously so I won't make a fuss about it.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 15 Jun 2018 @ 12:24pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: To hell with such laws -- YOU'D BE RIGHT AT HOME, ZOMBIE!

              A bit off topic, but I've got to wonder what the cash value would be of all those dormant/extinct Wikipedia accounts. Not a small value I'm sure, as many of the highly edited (more controversial) Wikipedia articles require 500 edits and 30 days advance experience, and a username having many years of experience would presumably have much more clout in making an argument than someone who barely qualifies in minimum postcount.

              There are companies for hire that specialize in scrubbing dirt and/or making promotions on Wikipedia, and they'd no doubt be willing to buy a slew of accounts if the price were right rather than having to build up their own sockpuppet accounts.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Bergman (profile), 13 Jun 2018 @ 11:45am

    if it is deemed to be deliberately fake or implausible

    Implausible? Truth is almost always stranger than fiction because fiction must be plausible to be accepted.

    If implausibility is the point upon which a fake news decision turns, then the more true something is the more likely it is to be declared fake.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jun 2018 @ 12:17pm

    There goes the French...

    waving the white flag again!

    They used to be badasses back in the day, but alas... no more!

    c'est la vie

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 13 Jun 2018 @ 3:33pm

    DEFINE FAKE NEWS...

    Really?

    HOW to prove something that has Proof or no proof.
    EVEN with proof, can yo Prove it and show it, and have it 100%, proven in 24-48 hours??

    Esp. in out of area locations.. Could a company in another State/country/Location HIDE anything they have?? YEP..
    Want to Dig into a corporations computer system???
    BEFORE OR AFTER they erase things??

    Want to TRY to go thru a Offshore bank to find Data, thats encoded with JUST numbers, and no names?? THEN try to prove it belongs to 1 person??

    Even with a TON of proof, it takes Courts YEARS, to decide right and wrong..
    Truth has little meaning with Right/Wrong/courts..

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jun 2018 @ 5:44pm

    The Establishment loves censorship as much as they love terrorism. Why? Because that way they can control what you do, say, and think.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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